Halifax has issued a demolition permit for a Dalhousie University-owned house on Edward Street on the eve of an expedited meeting of council’s Heritage Advisory Committee.
As the Halifax Examiner reported earlier this week, Dalhousie started work on the demolition last week before receiving a permit:
The municipality has ordered Dalhousie University to stop demolishing a 19th century building on campus.
The university bought 1245 Edward St. last July, and wants to tear it down. As the Halifax Examiner reported in May, residents, led by neighbour Peggy Walt, rallied to call for a stop to Dal’s plans, and they gathered thousands of signatures on a petition. They also submitted a third-party heritage application for the property, but it’s up against a demolition permit application.
The Heritage Advisory Committee received the residents’ petition, with more than 5,700 signatures, at its meeting last month.
If the committee scores the property over 50 points out of 100, it will be protected for 90 days pending council’s consideration.
But the university isn’t waiting for the permit.
Walt says the university has started demolishing the property without one on Friday, and the municipality has posted a violation notice.
“Demolition must not begin until an approved permit is in place,” assistant building official Daniel Campagna wrote on the notice, dated July 8.
It comes with a daily fine: $1,272.50.
On Thursday, the Examiner went to the property and found a demolition permit posted on the door, dated July 14.
Another paper taped to the door warns there’s asbestos inside. It was unclear whether there was any work happening inside, and the university’s contractor, Volcano Construction Services Ltd., might not have much time to do it.
The Heritage Advisory Committee wasn’t scheduled to meet until July 27, but there’s now a virtual meeting scheduled for 1pm Friday with 1245 Edward St. on the agenda.
In the staff report to the committee, dated June 24, planner Seamus McGreal lays out the history of the building, and recommends a total score of between 53 and 72 based on the municipality’s criteria for heritage properties.
“The building is an important architectural asset contributing to the heritage character of the surrounding area,” McGreal wrote.
It’s ultimately up to the committee to score the property, and it can break from staff’s recommendations.
A score of 50 or more sends the application to regional council, which typically schedules a heritage hearing to hear from the applicant and the property owner before deciding whether to add a property to the registry.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, Coun. Waye Mason moved to schedule a heritage hearing pending the committee’s decision, essentially skipping a step.
“This isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to saving a heritage building, and speed is of the essence,” Mason said.
That motion passed, meaning that if the committee does score the property above 50, the heritage hearing will be scheduled for one of council’s meetings in August.
If council does vote to register the property, that will still offer only short-term protection. If it’s registered, Dalhousie could apply to substantially alter the building, and even if council said no, Nova Scotia’s Heritage Property Act allows a property owner to tear it down anyway after three years.
The Examiner has asked the university for comment. We’ll update this post with its response.
Spokesperson Janet Bryson writes: “I can confirm as well that we did receive a demolition permit. There are a number of processes underway with HRM and we are currently assessing how those processes impact our work.”