The planned district would cover the “old village” core of Russell, and would include both residential and commercial areas on both sides of the Castor River. According to a proposal document, the district’s creation would help with “protecting key views, streetscapes and first impressions when entering this part of the village”.
Planning for the district began after the municipality retained MTBA Associates to prepare a report on heritage evaluations for properties in both Embrun and Russell. The preliminary report recommended the creation of a heritage conservation district in the centre of Russell village, due to “a concentration of potential heritage resources that might be worth consideration for protection”.
The designation of an HCD allows a municipality to protect the character of an area and guide future changes and development,” the report said. “This protection is not meant to thwart change, but to manage change in ways that are positive for the district and for the wider community.”
The proposal attracted a number of questions from members of the public watching the meeting in what mayor Pierre Leroux estimated was the greatest number of queries in the time council meetings had been conducted virtually. The questions covered topics such as interior renovations of buildings, fees for developments, and whether other sites’ heritage listings had been downgraded.
Planning, Building and Economic Development director Dominique Tremblay said a number of public consultations had been held during the development of the district plan to ensure the community’s wishes were respected. “We felt this [district] is something that is really important, it’s a tool for the community,” she said. “If the community does not want to preserve this area, the heritage conservation district offers no value. We’re not doing this for the township, we’re doing it for the people of Russell.”
Councillors approved the first reading of the bylaw. The plan and guidelines will be revised ahead of the second and third readings of the bylaw later this year.