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In Ontario, Cultural Heritage Landscapes are defined under the Provincial Policy Statement as areas identified as having cultural heritage value or interest. They may include parks, designed gardens, battlefields, viewsheds, or industrial complexes. They may have been intentionally planned or created, like a park or garden or downtown square. They may be evolved places that have developed over time, such as residential neighbourhoods or Main Streets.
Landscapes can also be associative. These are places with religious or cultural meaning, locations of remembrance, or areas valued for artistic inspiration. Provincial guidance recommends that only significant cultural heritage landscapes should be protected under the Ontario Heritage Act.
The “Character” of an area impacts how we perceive a place defining a specific area called a Character Area. While particular heritage homes or cultural heritage landscapes contribute to an area’s distinctiveness, it is the combination of streets, landscape treatments, topography, and heritage and non-heritage buildings and landscapes that can create and distinguish an area’s particular “look and feel.”
Development within a Character Area or Character District can be managed through Character Area guidelines. Other examples of tools that may assist in managing area character could include tree by-laws, landform guidelines, scenic corridor policies, or zoning provisions.
If the community supports a Cultural Heritage Landscape, i.e. a new/strengthened policy or by-law, in my neighbourhood, will this automatically be implemented?
No, this would be subject to review. Official Plan policies are subject to review and any proposal to strengthen by-laws would be subject to community engagement, including at least one public meeting.
It has been found that Heritage Conservation Districts maintain or even increase property value because they provide stability. As such, the potential Official Plan policy and, any by-laws that seek to maintain the area’s character may have the same impact.
If the community is not ready to protect the area with policies or by-laws, interpretation, commemoration and education may be considered. However, please note that once characteristic features are removed, it is difficult to bring them back, especially when they are natural and heritage features.