It is not unusual for owners of heritage properties to be anxious about inclusion on the Community Heritage Register (CHR). There are probably several reasons for this, including a perception of local government interference, but Heritage BC believes part of the problem is due to poor communication of the legislation and an unclear portrayal of the local government’s authority.
The implications of a community heritage reregister should be very clearly explained so that a property owner can feel protected and even encouraged to participate in the CHR program. This material should be written from the point of view of the property owner and anticipating their questions and concerns. A focus on the local government’s authority is likely unhelpful at the initiation of a relationship with an inexperienced property owner.
“If your property is listed on the Heritage Register, it is not legally protected. However, it means that the property has been recognized by the City as having heritage value to the community. As the owner of a heritage building in New Westminster, you are encouraged to work with City Staff to retain and protect your structure, while ensuring its use, density and function are the best they can be.” (source)
The legislation does not give the local government the authority to automatically prevent the owner of a heritage property from developing, redeveloping, or demolishing that property. However, when a local government implements a Community Heritage Register program, it does have access to additional management tools:
These management tools cannot extend beyond 60 days, which provides time to collect information and conduct an inspection of the heritage features of the property. Local government staff then prepares a report to Council outlining conservation options for their consideration before the temporary protection period expires.
The management tools cannot be used for the same property more than once in a two-year period.
For the heritage property owner, the LGA does not provide local governments with authorities that are significantly different from those applied to owners of non-heritage properties. Of course, designating a property is very different from registering a property, as the local government has the option to set specific restrictions in a council-approved bylaw.
Local governments may offer benefits to property owners as an incentive to participate in the Community Heritage Register program. Benefits typically assist owners who wish to retain and upgrade their buildings as part of a development proposal. Benefit programs adopted by local governments include: