Chelsea, Quebec needs heritage policy

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by Trevor Greenway on August 12, 2009

The Editor,

Following my letter to the Editor on the decay of New Chelsea, Quebec published in the Low Down on July 29th a neighbour, owner of one of Chelsea’s oldest houses, approached me to talk about his dilemma. His charming pile badly needs further  insulation to make it more economical and comfy,but the cost of recladding over the insul-fluff varies wildly with the materials used. Proper wood clapboard or even Canexel (pressed wood) is several times more costly than vinyl, the bane of heritage preservers everywhere.  The Municipality of Chelsea he said wants wood or presswood and my neighbour says, ”I can’t afford it and the township won’t help”. The decline of Chelsea’s heritage buildings and hence the appeal to new residents and to tourists seems to be related to municipal policy.  Unlike more whole-souled heritage townships in Québec, with designated heritage precincts, Chelsea has poor protection and no support for the maintenance of historic buildings. In my view, it is time Chelsea reviews and overhauls its current weak heritage protection.  At best, a proper heritage policy would qualify owners of now-declining heritage piles for provincial financial aid for repairs and restoration, and at the same time would eliminate ill-advised modern retrofits.  The whole community benefits from the presence of heritage buildings, but if it is to do so for much longer it will have to take positive action and not just rely on the current non-policy.

Harry Gow

New Chelsea