Local government staff are usually accustomed to preparing legal documents, but they may not be similarly familiar with the attributes of heritage properties and the needs of heritage conservation. Unfortunately, it is possible to write designation bylaws that cannot withstand legal challenge and, therefore, not protect the significance of the property as desired.
It is outside of this guide’s scope and Heritage BC’s experience to fully comment on the preparation of a bylaw concerning heritage designation. However, as this is a critical issue, this section is offered to help strengthen the content of the bylaw specifically related to the heritage property and its significance. The following is provided as information only; please seek legal counsel as required.
This section is paraphrased from the Province of Ontario’s Designating Heritage Properties guidebook (source):
Statements and descriptions must be carefully written so as to:
Best Practice: It is important that the bylaw clearly describes the heritage values and the expectations of conversation so that the bylaw supports appropriate decision-making in the future. As the bylaw is not likely to contain sufficient detail, the bylaw should rely on and refer to a professionally-prepared Statement of Significance and/or conservation report. These documents will provide detailed descriptions and directions that are required in order to respond to issues related to alterations, maintenance, and modifications. The reports can be appended to the bylaw.
In addition to the legal description, there are three key pieces of information to be prepared.
This describes the general character of the property and identifies those aspects of the property to which the designation applies. In addition to providing information so that the location of the property can be identified (i.e. municipal address and neighbourhood if appropriate), it should outline the principal resources that form part of the designation (i.e. buildings, structures, landscapes, remains, etc.) and identify any discernible boundaries.
This document, ideally prepared by a heritage professional, will convey why the property is significant and merits designation, explaining cultural meanings, and the associations and connections the property holds for the community. This statement should reflect one or more of the standard designation criteria prescribed in the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada (found here).
Heritage attributes are those attributes (i.e. materials, forms, location and spatial configurations) of the property, buildings and structures that contribute to the property’s cultural heritage value or interest, and which should be retained to conserve that value. Heritage attributes include, but are not limited to:
The described attributes will relate to the values described in the Statement of Significance and conservation report.
Working successfully with council and community to achieve heritage designation (source: City of Vancouver)