Why is built heritage important?

    The history and heritage of St. John’s is significant to the history of the province and the early European settlement of North America. The remains of our early heritage are evident in the patterns of streets and buildings and their orientation to the harbour established in the early settlement of St. John’s. Historic institutional buildings such as the churches and the court house, and the blocks of row housing defined by narrow streets, laneways and parks are unique to the city’s downtown. This historic fabric, particularly in the downtown, has resulted in interesting streetscapes that have a high social, cultural, and economic value.

    Heritage Areas enhance our perspective, understanding, and awareness of the past, and contribute to our sense of identity and pride. Preservation of Heritage Areas and Buildings provides tremendous economic benefits, stimulating commercial activity through increased tourism activity and spending.

    Balancing the desire to retain our built heritage with opportunities for new development in Heritage Areas has been, and will continue to be, a challenge. Ultimately, heritage resources are a fragile gift from past generations, and are not a renewable resource, therefore we must preserve them for their unique value and the qualities that make St. John’s significant for past, present and future generations.

    Why create a Heritage By-Law?

    Heritage Standards are currently regulated in the St. John's Development Regulations. To better protect built heritage, staff recommended the creation of a Heritage By-Law. A By-Law derives its authority from the City of St. John’s Act which has specific provisions for built heritage. A Heritage By-Law will provide better protection for built heritage. 

    Have the Heritage Standards been revised?

    Yes, the Heritage Standands (found in Schedule D of the draft Heritage By-Law) have been updated quite a bit. While the format remains the same, updates include: 

    • Adding standards for designated Heritage Buildings. Under the current regulations, there are no specific standards for Heritage Buildings. 
    • For residential buildings, the proposed standards include criteria for dormer windows, metal roofs, solar panels, green roofs (that is, roofs that have landscaping and plantings), heat pumps, and accessory buildings. We recommend allowing roof decks in Heritage Area 1 under certain conditions. We propose requiring that iron fences be maintained for Heritage Buildings and in Heritage Area 1. 
    • The current standards do not deal with residential garages, and therefore every application with a garage had to be referred to the Built Heritage Experts' Panel and Council for direction. The proposed standards allow consideration for the addition of a garage to an existing building, or for a new development to include a residential garage. 
    • The standards for non-residential buildings are proposed to include the same design elements which now apply only to residential buildings. These include window styles, rooflines, door styles, and so on. Non-residential building standards now also include proposed standards for building facades, recessed entries, outdoor service area fencing (such as fences for outdoor eating areas), and banking machines. 
    • The design standards include a proposed new section for additions to existing buildings and for new developments (residential and non-residential). The current standards give no guidance for a designer. With the proposed standards, new developments will be required to blend with the existing neighbourhood and surrounding buildings. This allows the use of modern elements so long as they reflect the surroundings. For taller buildings, the area from the ground to 18 metres (approximately 4 storeys) high, the base or podium of the building, is most visible at street level. There will be flexibility to relax the standards above 18 metres, where the building will be required to step back. This keeps a traditional streetscape while allowing modern designs above the 4th storey. The wording used in the section is similar to Parks Canada’s Standards & Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada.

    Are there any new Heritage Areas?

    Yes. The Battery neighbourhood is currently within Heritage Area 3.  Staff recommend a new Heritage Area 4 with design standards unique to the Battery neighbourhood. For example, in existing Heritage Areas, windows at the rear of a house are not regulated unless they face a public street. For Heritage Area 4, windows that face St. John’s harbour (even at the rear of a house) will be regulated, given the importance of maintaining traditional building forms facing the harbour.

    What is a Heritage Report?

    A Heritage Report is a new requirement for applications to demolish a Heritage Building, applications to change or revoke the designation of a Heritage Building, and any other application as recommended by the appropriate staff member (termed an “Inspector” in the By-Law). A Heritage Report addresses the anticipated impacts that the proposed work may have on the heritage value of a building, neighbourhood or streetscape. The report informs Council and the public on heritage impacts before Council makes a decision on an application. Heritage Reports will be similar to Land Use Assessment Reports (LUARs); Council will set terms of reference, the applicant will pay for the report by a suitably qualified consultant, and the report will be made public.

    When will the Heritage By-Law come into effect?

    The exact date is still to be determined. Following public consultation, feedback will be brought back to Council for consideration. The approval of the Heritage By-Law will be coordinated with approval of the Envision St. John’s Municipal Plan and Development Regulations to avoid any gap in heritage regulations.

    What does Envision St. John's say about heritage?

    Envision St. John's sets the framework for the new Heritage By-Law. This includes:

    1. Identify and designate Heritage Buildings and Heritage Areas that have historic value through the administration of the City's Heritage By-law, this Municipal Plan and its Development Regulations.
    2. Ensure the preservation of the city's built heritage by encouraging appropriate renovations and adaptive reuse of Heritage Buildings and those buildings located in the City's Heritage Areas in keeping with the provisions of the City's Heritage By-law, this Plan and its Development Regulations.
    3. Consult with and seek the advice of the Built Heritage Experts' Panel on built heritage matters related to the designation of Heritage Buildings; the expansion, contraction and creation of Heritage Areas; and, the recognition of Heritage Districts as well as Ceremonial Buildings and Sites in keeping with the provisions of the City's Heritage By-law.
    4. Maintain a list of Heritage Buildings, Heritage Areas, Heritage Districts as well as Ceremonial Buildings and Sites that have historic and/or architectural significance, including those that are unique, rare, or exceptional, as well as those that represent examples of common or ordinary buildings of historic, cultural or social significance. 
    5. Identify and consider appropriate uses for designated Heritage Buildings as a means of encouraging their preservation. 
    6. Ensure that exterior renovations or alterations to designated Heritage Buildings retain the building's character-defining elements and their significant architectural or historical physical features in accordance with the City's Heritage By-law.
    7. Encourage the use of alternative standards of the National Building Code of Canada and other related codes and regulations to permit the maximum conservation of a Heritage Building while still ensuring the health and safety of the occupants and the public. 
    8. Ensure that new developments within the City’s Heritage Areas are compatible and in keeping with the streetscape in accordance with the City’s Heritage By-law.
    9. Develop detailed urban design guidelines to help facilitate new development proposals through the City’s Heritage By-law review process. 
    10. Designate new Heritage Areas through the City’s Heritage By-law to ensure that development proposals are compatible and in keeping with the area’s built heritage and their historic spatial relationships. Areas worthy of special recognition as Heritage include, but are not limited to: 
      • The Battery Development Area
      • Quidi Vidi Village 
      • Fort Amherst 
    11. Continue to recognize special places within Heritage Areas by designating them as Historic Districts through the City’s Heritage By-law. Areas worthy of special recognition as Heritage Districts, in addition to the existing Rennies Mill Road Historic District, the Water Street Historic District, the St. John’s Ecclesiastical District and the National Historic District, include, but are not limited to: 
      • George Street entertainment area 
      • Churchill Park (the post-war northern suburb)
    12. Encourage local utility companies to place equipment and devices in locations that do not detract from the visual character or integrity of heritage resources in the Heritage Areas. 

    What other stakeholders will be contacted?

    In addition to the public sessions, the City will consult owners of designated Heritage Buildings, Heritage NL, the NL Historic Trust, the NL Association of Architects, the Canadian Home Builders Association NL, Downtown St. John's and the George Street Association

    What programs does the City offer to protect built heritage?

    The City designates buildings as Heritage Buildings to protect them for future generations. We offer the Heritage Financial Incentives Program to anyone who owns a designated Heritage Building or a building in a Heritage Area.  This program defrays some of the costs associated with renovating the exterior of a heritage property.