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Region looking at potential heritage rebate program

The Oshawa Museum’s Robinson House is a well-known property of heritage importance. Durham Region staff are considering a rebate program for such properties.

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Heritage may be taking more of a pivotal role in Durham as staff are looking into creating a rebate program for properties of historical value.

At the most recent finance and administration committee meeting, members were presented with a correspondence from the Town of Whitby asking staff to look for opportunities to find rebates for heritage properties.

“I just hope that staff are able to explore that, and we can support the heritage properties as best as we can through a tax rebate because we know how expensive it is,” said Whitby councillor Chris Leahy.

He wondered if staff knew of any other regional municipalities which might do something similar, or is this the first they had heard of it.

Commissioner of finance Nancy Taylor said this isn’t the first time such an idea has been brought up.

“This issue has been raised and debated amongst the area treasurers for a number of years. Some of the [local municipalities including Oshawa] have this program, some of them don’t,” she explained. “The region has not partnered on it traditionally in the past, because it’s not consistent across all local municipalities. So in effect, we’d be favouring the municipalities who have the program, utilizing regional dollars by matching when others didn’t have the program.”

However, she noted staff would review the issue again.

“We are very happy to take a look at it with respect to our strategic tax study, and bring you information and recommendations for council to consider at that point in time,” she said.

Oshawa Ward 5 city and regional councillor Brian Nicholson expressed concern over “the wants versus the needs” of some communities.

“I just ask staff to keep in mind that in some municipalities, it’s not so much that they don’t want to do the program, but when your local tiers only get 20 per cent of the tax bill, the hit to the local tier is just too much, and therefore that’s why some are looking for the region to step in…” he said.

Taylor once again reiterated staff would take a closer look, but pointed out there more to consider.

“The other issue [local municipalities] have is some of them have more [heritage properties] by virtue of the history of their municipalities, so more [heritage to be concerned about],” she said.