Bussin backs down

[attach]1825[/attach]Councillor Sandra Bussin is saying there’s no longer any point in looking to have 204 Beech Ave. designated a heritage property.

“Reasons no longer exist to report 204 Beech Avenue to the Toronto Preservation Board on designating as a heritage property because of the removal of its most significant heritage features,” Bussin said in a letter to East York and Toronto Community Council on Tuesday.

In the letter, Bussin points out that the owners of the home, Geoff and Melissa Teehan, obtained a building permit from the city on June 11. That permit allows them to remove the dormers, turret and related interior alterations to the existing building, features that gave the house its heritage significance, according to the letter.

At a May 25 meeting, Bussin had asked community council to expedite a report on the heritage value of the home, a move that set off a fierce response from the owners and ignited a debate about the system of heritage preservation in the city. In her latest letter to council, she asks that the original request be rescinded in light of the circumstances.

“The ball is in Mr. Teehan’s court,” said Bussin in an interview. “I would hope the owner of the property would reconsider (his plans).”

In January, the Teehans purchased 204 Beech Ave. in order to smash it down and build an accessible dream home designed to accommodate Melissa Teehan, who became a quadriplegic three years ago.

Despite the fact that the home had not been listed as a heritage property when the couple purchased it, neighbours who learned of the plan to demolish and rebuild complained to Bussin, who in turn obtained an architect’s report which said the home had heritage value. That led community council to begin the process of having the home designated a heritage property, a move the Teehans said would put the brakes on their dream of a fully accessible home, as well as hurt them financially.

The highly public battle, fought both online and at community meetings, has highlighted a system of heritage preservation in the city that is reactive rather than proactive, responding only when a home is about to be demolished. The understaffed heritage system has come under fire for leaving homeowners in an awkward state of limbo when they seek to alter homes that may have heritage value, but have not been designated as such.

The battle has also been a headache for Bussin, who is up for reelection this fall. She became an object of scorn among Teehan supporters for being perceived to side with a broken system, rather than a family in difficult circumstances.

Teehan could not be reached for comment. Bussin said a demolition notice is currently posted outside the house.