Alma goes over to management
Board to supply council with more information on historic structure

By Ian McCallum, St. Thomas Times-Journal Staff
Tuesday February 14, 2006

With the clock relentlessly ticking, St. Thomas council Monday directed the city's management board to provide more information before council deals with an application to demolish the main building and chapel at Alma College. The request comes in spite of the fact the city only has until March 23 to address the request by owners Alma Heritage Estates, at which time, under the Ontario Heritage Act, it is assumed permission to demolish has been granted.

“Time is running out in more ways than one,” Municipal Heritage Committee chairman Angus Walton told the Times-Journal afterwards.

Following last week’s public meeting to gather input on the demolition request, the MHC recommended the permit request be denied. The committee also urged council to take action under Section 35.3 of the heritage act, which prescribes minimum standards for the maintenance of heritage properties, and actively involve the province to take action on preserving and restoring the former school for girls.

In a letter sent to the city’s environmental services department on Dec. 23, London, Ont., lawyer Brian Worrad indicated Alma Heritage Estates, a family consortium consisting of Brian Squires and the Zubick family of London, is seeking to demolish the main building and the chapel. Alma Heritage Estates spokesperson Jill Zubick told the Times-Journal two weeks ago the family is frustrated by restrictions resulting from its designation under the Ontario Heritage Act. Following the MHC public meeting, she warned, “If this goes out in limbo again nothing is gained. We need council’s support.”

“Let’s hope this is not going to languish as it did before,” agreed Walton. “But it can’t languish because after 90 days if council doesn’t reply, then it’s assumed the owners have a demolition permit. It’s a case of we’re going to have to make a decision quickly. How long can that poor building withstand the elements?”

In a unanimous vote, council directed the management board to provide more information on Section 35.3 of the heritage act by no later than March 7.

The board consists of Mayor Jeff Kohler; John Dewancker, director of environmental services; Pat Keenan, city planner; Wendell Graves, city clerk; Michael Carroll, Valleyview Home for the Aged administrator; Chester Hinatsu, director of Ontario Works; Fire Chief Bob Barber; Bob Wheeler, Economic Development Corporation general manager; Bill Day, city treasurer, and Graham Dart, director of human resources.