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School on road to becoming a heritage site

Bob Bruton

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner

That's one for heritage, Barrie.

Prince of Wales School was placed on the municipal heritage registry by city council last night, a first step in designating -- and protecting -- the Bradford Street school under the Ontario Heritage Act, despite opposition by the public school board. It has decided to close the school following the 2009-10 school year.

"As chair of Heritage Barrie, I want to start the municipal registry now," said Coun. Andrew Prince, mentioning that Steele's China and Gift Shop on Collier Street was torn down, in part, because no flag went up when a demolition permit was issued. Being on the registry would allow a 60-day hold on any demolition permit.

But Toronto lawyer Brad Teichman, representing the Simcoe County District School Board, said there was no basis for putting the century-old school on the heritage registry. He noted there was no staff report explaining the heritage aspects of the building.

"So there has to be some other reason," Teichman said. "I understand the city wants to keep the school open to revitalize the Barrie city centre (downtown area). It's not a rationale for designating the building or placing it on the heritage registry."

He also said a heritage designation, or a pending one, could affect the property's value -- should the school board try to sell it at a later date.

But Mayor Dave Aspden said there's a very good reason Prince of Wales should be on the heritage registry.

"You should understand this was the first school in Barrie, built by the town of Barrie and then turned over to the school board," he said. "That happened 125 years ago."

Coun. Barry Ward spoke against adding the school to the municipal registry, noting it's in no danger of being demolished -- classes will be held there in the next school year -- and that there should be a process.

"I don't think the right process has been followed here," he said, noting it was being added to the registry for "political reasons".

But Coun. Jeff Lehman noted that Teichman was speaking on behalf of the school board administration, and that public school trustees had not voted on this matter.

Coun. Lynn Strachan said that Teichman should not have mentioned Prince of Wales with the city's request for provincial funding to keep the school open, because they are separate issues.

"It's quite misleading you discussing the other matter," she said.

Council also decided last night to ask three provincial ministries -- education, municipal affairs and housing, and energy and infrastructure -- to provide specific funding to the public board to allow the school to stay open.

Barrie officials see the public school as a vital part of efforts by the province and city to revitalize the city centre.Simcoe Area: A Vision for Growth,a provincial document released June 4, determines that Barrie's city centre will be the focus for population growth and investment in public services and infrastructure.

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