"Contributing" and "non-contributing" in Rockcliffe Park (Joanne Laucius, Ottawa Citizen)

Which properties contribute to Rockcliffe Park’s unique leafy charm and which don’t?

The difference between “contributing” and “non-contributing” properties still needs to be clarified after Ottawa’s built heritage sub-committee approved a new heritage conservation district plan for Rockliffe Park on Tuesday. It’s unclear how long that might take, said Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Tobi Nussbaum, who is chair of the sub-committee.

“The plan is very much whole right now. So it’s going to proceed to planning committee and council with the recognition that we may need to come back to this committee,” he said.

Non-contributing properties includes those with buildings that are “not sympathetic to the character of the heritage conservation district in their design and expression.”

Those ranked “contributing” can only be demolished under extraordinary circumstances.

The new plan is an update to previous guidelines set out in 1997 under the Ontario Heritage Act, when the entire village was designated a heritage district. It acknowledges that Rockcliffe’s heritage value lies not only in its buildings, but in the relationship between buildings and the landscape. What makes Rockcliffe different is that it features a combination of large and small lots, narrow meandering roads, mature trees and plenty of green space, which give it the informal feel of a rural village. 

“We can’t lose sight of that. It’s not the bricks and mortar, but the landscape,” said Sandy Smallwood, a member of the sub-committee. “There’s a problem with suggesting that some buildings don’t contribute, because they all contribute.”

Under the new plan, new construction has to be “compatible with, sympathetic to and (have) regard for the height, massing and setbacks of the established streetscape.”

The Rockcliffe Park Residents Association says the new plan will help prevent “monster homes” from invading Rockcliffe. But there has been some disagreement about “contributing” and “non-contributing,” says association vice-president Kathy Day.

For example, a property that scores a 49 out of 100 is ranked “non-contributing” while one ranked 51 is “contributing.” Some in Rockcliffe don’t like the term “non-contributing,” she says. 

Meanwhile, another heritage district conservation plan for New Edinburgh was also approved on Tuesday. It also has “contributing” and “non-contributing” designations.

One of the goals of the New Edinburgh plan is to “prioritize the reuse of existing buildings as an alternative to demolition including the renovation and improvement of non-contributing properties” to enhance district’s character.

Gail McEachern, a member of the board of the New Edinburgh Community Association, says the point of the plan isn’t to stop development, but to respect the district’s history. “We hope that people who build new structures or add to old structures respect the scale and the massing of what was here in New Edinburgh in the old days.”

Source: Ottawa Citizen