[October 9] Special Meeting: James Baptist Church Demolition Permit Hearing

RTH File PhotoRTH File Photo

The Municipal Heritage Permit Review Subcommittee is making their biggest decision in years on Wednesday when they gather to decide: Does James Street Baptist Church get the wrecking ball or does it survive another winter?

The decision is of such importance, the committee’s citizen volunteers will meet for the first time ever in Council Chambers to ensure the public can observe the meeting at noon.

Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr, where James Street Baptist Church is located, asked the subcommittee to have their meeting in Council Chambers to faciliate public observation.

“I am pleased that the sub-committee, through their Chair, has appreciated the public interest on this important file and have agreed to change venues accordingly,” Farr said. “Staff have also been helpful in accommodating the public with the chamber as a venue. Folks now have the option of attending or viewing the live stream from work or home. ”

Livestream and Live Updates/Discussion Starts at Noon Wednesday

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Public Delegations to Come at Later Date

As a committee of citizen volunteers – many of whom are taking time off paid work – they do not hear public delegations. They make a recommendation to the full Hamilton Municipal Heritage Committee. HMHC makes its recommendation to Council’s Planning Committee and this provides the best opportunity for the public to speak fully on the matter.

Farr also is the chair of Council’s Planning Committee. Farr says he will welcome public delegations when the Planning Committee takes up the matter. This is expected to occur on November 5th. (You can register to speak by filling out the delegation request form on the City website)

Special Meeting Called After Two Weeks of Review

The Municipal Heritage Permit Review Subcommittee and the owner of  James Street Baptist Church was surprised two weeks ago when it learned City staff withheld a 129-page consultant’s report on the structural state of the landmark heritage building on the corner of James and Jackson.

The committee heard a presentation from Louie Santaguida, the property owner, Richard Ramos, president and CEO of Stanton Renaissance, and architect Drew Hauser of McCallum Sather Architects.

Note: There is no recording of this meeting because it was held at the same time as City Council.

After two hours of discussion, the committee tabled the matter for two weeks to read the report and conduct a site visit. The meeting will be held Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 12noon in City Hall. Downtown Councillor Jason Farr is working to move the meeting from a room the public cannot attend in to the Council Chambers.

Agenda

agenda<em>hmhc</em>Oct9_13

Plan to demolish All But Front Towers and Front Wall

joey<em>coleman</em>james<em>street</em>baptist<em>rendering</em>new_towerThe owner is asking for a demolition permit for all of the building except the front towers and wall of the building – approximately 20% of the 130 year old building.

The developer’s engineer says the interior walls are bulging up to 6.5 inches at chest level in some places. He warned that the building is in danger of partial collapse due to the deteriorating condition of the walls.

The architect says that mortar is collapsing in multiple parts of the fountain. He said that to fix the foundation, the whole building would have to be taken down anyway.

Is the Church in Imminent Danger of Collapse?

The owner and his consultants told the Committee on September 25 that the building was in imminent danger of collapse and they do not believe the building survive another “freeze-thaw cycle” this winter without a collapse of the north wall.

Structural enginner Grant Milligan of Quinn Dressel Associates said church use is hard on buildings, due to factors such as inconsistent heating, which is “cranked up Sunday morning” and then turned down for the rest of the week. He said temperature variations, such as freeze-thaw cycles, are especially damaging upon stone buildings. The north side of the church, with no sun exposure, is especially damaged.

Rendering. Shaded area to be retained.Rendering. Shaded area to be retained.

#### Plans for a 22-30-storey mixed-use building

The developer’s website wrote in August of plans to build a “22-30-storey mixed-use building, including retail, commercial space, a boutique hotel and residences”.

During the committee hearing in September, Hauser stated said they need to do further market research to determine the appropriate development and height before presenting a development plan.

Skeptical Committee

The heritage review committee was skeptical of the professed need to move quickly on demolition, saying they have “heard these stories of doom before.”

A committee member asked, “If this building is so terrible, what makes the part you are keeping so different?”

Hauser replied, “It will be a significant challenge and investment to keep it,” but “it can stand on its own foundationally.” Unlike the sanctuary, it is not in imminent danger of collapse.

Committee to hold site visit before meeting

The Committee will visit the church before they meet at City Hall. During the tour, the developer consultants will have an opportunity to make their case.

Immediately following the tour, the committee will walk to City Hall to make a decision.

Recommendation to Full Municipal Heritage and then to Council

The Committee is expected to decide to recommend approval or denial of the demolition permit. As a designated heritage building, the final decision will be made by City Council.

The recommendation will go the Full Municipal Heritage Committee on October 17, followed by Planning Committee on November 5, and then City Council on November 13.

It is unlikely that if either this Committee or the Full Municipal Heritage Committee vote against demolition that Council will overturn their decision.

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