Cultural Heritage Planning

Cultural Heritage in Richmond Hill

Conservation of our cultural heritage resources helps maintain a sense of place and history. When this conservation continues over time, these resources contribute to our collective culture as a community. Richmond Hill is committed to ensuring that our cultural heritage resources are protected. 

Richmond Hill's archaeological record is over 11,000 years old. Its current euro-settlement history dates back to over two hundred years ago when Yonge Street was first carved out of the landscape to serve as a military route. We became a village with surrounding hamlets and have developed into a thriving City which is experiencing significant growth and is anticipating still more into the future. 

Despite this rapid growth, evidence of the rich and layered development history continues to exist today, endowing the City with a dynamic physical character. Maintaining significant built features and dynamic landscapes is important for Richmond Hill and is accomplished through heritage-specific protocols and provincial legislation provided by the Ontario Heritage Act.

The general public, including heritage property owners and students, can request information about historic sites and structures in our community. The Richmond Hill Central Public Library and Richmond Hill Heritage Centre have collections and artifacts related to the history of Richmond Hill and can also provide sources for more information. 

Heritage Richmond Hill (HRH) Advisory Committee

Heritage Richmond Hill (HRH), first established in 1985 as the Richmond Hill Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee (LACAC), is a Council-appointed municipal advisory committee of 11 members. The committee comprises citizen representatives of each of the wards within the City and two City Councillors. The HRH committee is supported by the Heritage Planner in the Heritage and Urban Design Section and has a key mandate to advise Council on the conservation and management of the City's cultural heritage resources. In accordance with the Ontario Heritage Act, especially applications or requests related to designation, heritage alteration permits and other legislated processes must receive a recommendation from HRH prior to Council making a decision on the matter. 

Heritage and Urban Design Section

The Heritage and Urban Design Section (HUD), through the Heritage Planner, provides heritage planning functions in the Planning and Regulatory Services Department. In liaison with HRH, other City staff and citizens, the section manages information on Archaeology and provides planning advice on Built Heritage and Cultural Heritage landscape (the 'ABCs' of heritage planning) within the City. The section processes various types of heritage applications under the Ontario Heritage Act, creates resource documents, manages the Municipal Heritage Register, and develops policy documents and strategies to oversee heritage resource management throughout the City.

Contact the Heritage Planner for more information about heritage properties, permits, grants or historic sites and structures at 905-771-5529.

Heritage Planning

Click on the tabs below for a general overview of Richmond Hill's efforts towards the protection and management of our heritage resources. 

The Ontario Heritage Act (OHA) 

The Ontario Heritage Act (OHA) is legislation enacted by the Province to assist citizens with the protection and preservation of the province's heritage resources. 

Under Sections IV and V of the Act, municipalities are able to designated any properties or a district of significant cultural heritage importance within the City. Once a property is designated, any alterations or changes to the heritage attributes of the property must obtain written municipal approval by way of a Heritage Permit before any work can be done. 

The OHA also enables the City to establish a Property Standards By-law for Designated Properties. Richmond Hill has adopted such a by-law, which augments the traditional Property Standards By-law, by providing more specific means of ensuring that designated properties are maintained and not allowed to fall into such disrepair to the point of collapse as a result of severe neglect. 

What is a Municipal Heritage Register?

The City's Register is the list of properties that have been identified as having potential cultural heritage interest (listed properties), and those with recognized and confirmed cultural heritage significance (designated properties). Richmond Hill's Municipal Heritage Register is augmented by the illustrated Inventory of Cultural Heritage Resources, but also includes properties, such as cemeteries, which may not have any buildings on them. The register is not a static inventory, and is updated periodically to reflect changes to properties' statuses, or for the addition of new properties. It is managed by the Heritage Planner. 

What does it mean to be a Designated Property? 

A Designated Property is recognized by the City and the Province as a property of cultural heritage significance. Designation gives special legal status through the enactment of a designation by-law under Sections IV and V of the OHA, to protect the property's heritage attributes and its cultural heritage significance over time. The designated status is registered on title and requires certain responsibilities and actions of the property owner, however, the owner retains control of the property. 

Council, with advice from HRH, makes the decision to designate. The process towards designation starts with research to confirm the heritage value of the property, once confirmed, a designation by-law that clearly describes the reasons of significance and the key features or attributes to be protected will be submitted for consideration by HRH to Council. If Council decides to designate the property, a 30 day public notification period is required under the OHA. Within the 30 day period, objections may be filed to appeal the designation to the Conservation Review Board. If no objection is filed at the end of the 30 days, the by-law will be enacted and the designation process completed. 

What does it mean to be a Listed Property? 

A listed heritage property is a property of potential cultural heritage value or interest that is included on the City's Heritage Register. Listed properties have not been assessed and researched in terms of their cultural heritage merit. A listed property may become designated if a Cultural Heritage Assessment is undertaken and confirms that the property meets the criteria for designation set out in the OHA

Under the Act, owner(s) are required to advise the City of their intention to demolish or remove a building or structure on listed properties. As part of the demolition application the owner must submit a Cultural Heritage Assessment of the property to the City. Once the request is deemed complete, Council has 60 days to determine the heritage value of the property. 

What is a Heritage Conservation District? (HCD) 

A Heritage Conservation District (HCD) is a defined area of buildings and properties designated under Section V of the Ontario Heritage Act. Within a HCD the protection of properties according to the Act goes beyond the individual buildings to include the spaces between the buildings, the surrounding natural and man-made landscape, roads, footpaths, fences, lighting, street furniture and other features that contribute to the neighbourhood's cultural character. All structures within the boundary of the HCD are designated.

The Gormley Heritage Conservation District, established in 2009, is the City's first Heritage Conservation District. The Gormley Heritage Conservation District Plan provides guidance on how changes and alterations to the properties and the neighbourhood may be managed. The Gormley HCD Plan was formulated with a great deal of input from the affected property owners and is supported by The Gormley Heritage Conservation District Study, a detailed research project on the built heritage in the area. 

Contact the Heritage Planner for more information about heritage properties, grants or historic sites and structures, or if you would like to view illustrated versions of the Gormley HCD Study, Plan, or Inventory, at 905-771-5529.

What is the Heritage Permit Process?

Designation by-law of a Designated Property clearly describes the reasons of significance and the key features or attributes of that property. If the owner wishes to make alterations to the property that may affect the identified heritage attributes, prior to undertaking any work on the subject structure, he/she is required to obtain Council's (or their delegated authority's) written consent. The Heritage Permit Process is to ensure any alteration or change to a heritage designated property meets the heritage conservation standards and is not detrimental to the cultural heritage resource. Our Heritage Planner will be able to assist the owner in this process. A formal submission of a Heritage Permit Application will be required. 

If anyone who is convicted of contravening the Act by undertaking work without a heritage permit, he/she may be subject to a maximum of $1,000,000 and the restoration cost to restore the property to its original condition. For more information, please contact Heritage and Urban Design staff. 

Are there Programs to assist owners in maintaining and celebrating their Designated Properties?

The City has three programs available to assist owners of designated heritage properties. These programs are described below. From time to time, the Provincial and Federal Governments and private foundations also introduce programs designed to assist owners of designated heritage properties. the City is not usually notified of these programs and designated heritage property owners should periodically check higher level government communications and other heritage information sources for news of such programs. 

What is the Heritage Grant Program?

Applications for the 2021 Heritage Grant Program are being accepted until March 26, 2021. Once a year a Heritage Grant Program is run by the City to provide financial assistance for home owners of designated properties to conserve, repair and restore their heritage properties. the City provides up to 50% of rehabilitation costs to a maximum of $5,000.00 for successful applicants of designated properties. Home owners can submit a grant application along with documentation, the scope of work and the quotation of project cost to the City's Planning and Regulatory Services Department. Council will approve the appropriate amount of the grant to the applicant based on recommendations from HRH and Heritage Staff. The applicant will be notified of the decision through a letter in the mail. 

What are Heritage Plaques?

Historical plaques are placed on buildings in the community to raise public awareness of Richmond Hill's architectural heritage. These plaques are put up with no cost to the property owner. HRH plans to put up plaques on a number of buildings or groups of buildings every year. 

Heritage Process Resources

Inventory of Buildings of Architectural Historical Importance

The Inventory of Cultural Heritage Resources augments Richmond Hill's Heritage Register. It provides a list and photo records of properties that have been identified as having potential cultural heritage interest (listed properties), and those with recognized and confirmed cultural heritage significance (designated properties). The register also includes properties that may have no structures on them, such as cemeteries, and requires updating periodically due to changes in status to some of the properties from time-to-time. The register is managed by the Heritage Planner. 

Gormley Heritage Conservation District

The Gormley Heritage Conservation District (HCD) came into effect on December 13, 2009. The HCD includes the village core of Gormley and is intended to preserve, protect and enhance the character of this unique asset within the City of Richmond Hill. Below are links to text-only versions of Gormley HCD Inventory, Study, and Plan. Should you wish to view the original versions of these documents, please contact the Heritage and Urban Design Planner through the "Email this Person" link at the bottom of this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I find out if my property is designated or listed?

The City's Heritage Planner can be contacted to find out whether the subject property is listed, designated or not listed. the City can issue a Clearance Letter providing a formal response indicating the heritage status of the property for a fee of $91.

What can I do if I want my property designated or listed?

A written request to the City will begin the process towards potential designation. The Heritage Planner will provide a step by step designation process to assist you. Please call 905-771-5529 to contact the Heritage Planner.

Can I make changes to a Designated Heritage Property?

If an owner of a Designated Property wishes to make alterations to the property that may affect the property's heritage attributes, prior to undertaking any work on the subject structure he/she is required to obtain Council's (or their delegated authority's) written consent. This process is called the Heritage Permit Process. If anyone who is convicted of contravening the Act by undertaking work without a heritage permit, he/she may be subject to a maximum $1,000,000 and the restoration cost to restore the property to its original condition. For more information, please contact Heritage and Urban Design staff at 905-771-5529. 

What type of alteration requires a Heritage Permit?

Minor alterations may not require a Heritage Permit. However, any alterations that may impact the heritage attributes of the designated property are required to obtain a Heritage Permit prior to any work being done. See Heritage Permit Process above. In general, alterations that repair rather than replace original features and those that do not permanently damage heritage fabric are the preferred solutions for Richmond Hill.

Are there any fees for particular heritage services? 

Richmond Hill provides the majority of heritage related services for free. However, the City has instituted fees for the following services:

  • Heritage Permits*
    • Minor Change: $398
    • Major Change: $3,415
  • Repeal of Heritage Designation By-law: $1,138

*Please refer to the Heritage Permit Application Form to determine the type of heritage permit and associated fee.