What happened at Council — October 24, 2023

Even with extremely short notice, a fair number of people came out to the Council meeting last night. The CAO had told us that Council would be asked to vote on whether to put the two ‘late’ reports on the Agenda. Those reports say that the Kitten Mill remains salvageable, and that repurposing it would be a much better financial and social deal for both the community than just knocking it down and likely leaving the property as bare acreage with a large lien on it. In other words, they refute the rationale for demolition.

We were all shocked to find that despite a promise from the CAO that Council would at least be asked to vote on whether to put the reports on the Agenda as ‘late’ items, that never happened. Now, Council members may have been polled individually before the meeting – but that’s not the same thing, as calling for a vote at Council, where people could see how each Council member voted.

So, this hugely important decision, which has irreversible consequences, wasn’t even open to discussion by Council.

Further: at the end of the Council agenda, the Reeve is required to ask if there are any questions from the public. I tried to ask a question about the issue, as did another community member – and we were shut down because the Procedural By-Law says that people can only ask questions that relate to something on the Agenda. So: refuse to put something on the Agenda (and that’s completely in the control of the CAO) and you prevent anyone from asking questions about it.

Why all the secrecy? Because, we’re told, this is an enforcement matter that must be left to staff, and Council can’t comment on it.

That makes no sense. By law, Council sets municipal policy and staff carries out those policies. Let’s be clear: Council is acting to support demolition of the Kitten Mill despite high-level reports that provide a different and better solution.

Council is behaving irresponsibly and we as community members will pay the price for its failure to carry out it’s legal responsibilities.

Excerpts from today’s Lanark Era; See the newspaper for the full story


Excerpts from today’s Lanark Era; See the newspaper for the full story

“An architect and an engineer brought in by the Lanark Heritage Preservation Society have both determined that parts of the Glenayr Kitten Mill building in Lanark village could be saved, even as Lanark Highlands Township moves ahead with demolition plans.

“Heritage engineering company John G. Cooke and Associates says that the stone structure can be saved and conserved in place, and full demolition of the stone masonry is not required.”

Architect Toon Dreessen from the architecture and design firm DCA was asked to consider the relative economic and social value of either demolishing or repurposing the mill building. His report points out that “…[monetary] cost is a consideration, but [costs of demolition]… include: opportunity cost, when demolished buildings can never be replaced and may leave an empty site for years to come; landfill cost, which can strain existing landfills; environmental cost, as the buildings are on or close to the river and demolition could have a negative impact; and social cost, with the physical incarnation of local residents’ memories gone forever.

“The LHPS signed an agreement with [the building owner, Andrew] Robertson on Sept. 6 to give the organization a year to explore the option of restoring and repurposing the building,’ as Toon suggested. “The group planned to work with community members to see what would have to be done to restore the building, apply for provincial and federal heritage funds needed to support the reconstruction, develop a business plan, and if the project is considered feasible, go ahead with the project.

“Two weeks later, the township put a demolition order on the building and informed the owner that if he failed to comply within a month, the township would carry out the demolition and put a lien on the property to cover township costs.

“Reeve Peter McLaren said yesterday that staff is working on demolition plans and looking at potential contamination issues, with the cost – which could add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars – added as a lien on the property. He refused to say where the township would take the money from in the meantime, noting that it is a confidential matter dealing with a private taxpayer.”