Ri­d­ley Hall de­ci­sion will ‘haunt’ coun­cil

The Compass - - OPINION -

Dear edi­tor,

I would like to comment on an ar­ti­cle head­lined “Coun­cil approves Ri­d­ley Hall de­mo­li­tion,” which was pub­lished in the May 22, 2012 edi­tion of The Com­pass.

Mayor Don Coombs states” “It’s di­lap­i­dated, it’s un­for­tu­nate, and, ob­vi­ously, if some­one isn’t go­ing to step up to the plate to throw money into it. If it can be sold, re­fur­bished and an­other nice place put in the town then that is some­thing we have to look as coun­cil.”

An­other nice place put in town? First of all, what town? Har­bour Grace is a town in need of an emer­gency re­vi­tal­iza­tion plan. Har­bour Grace and its his­tor­i­cal struc­tures are gov­erned in­suf­fi­ciently by a town coun­cil that has shown lit­tle re­spect for the cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal value of the town.

With no fo­cus in the area, lit­tle has been done to pre­serve, or pro­tect the old town core, a pri­mary rea­son for the town’s demise. A grow­ing num­ber of res­i­dents have moved due to the lack of ameni­ties in the town and there are no eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, which has fur­ther lead to the town’s crum­bling and de­cay.

On the Har­bour Grace web­site, it wel­comes In­ter­net vis­i­tors to visit the com­mu­nity, and makes note that it is an his­toric town. Yet coun­cil is pre­pared to con­demn one of the most unique and his­toric build­ings in the town — Ri­d­ley Hall.

This is the ac­tion of a coun­cil that has no vi­sion for the fu­ture, or value of its his­tor­i­cal past. Com­ple­men­tary to the own­ers of her­itage prop­er­ties on Wa­ter Street, who have re­stored and main­tained them. Th­ese are peo­ple who care about and want to con­serve those el­e­ments of the his­toric en­vi­ron­ment, and re­al­ize once they are lost, they can­not be re­placed.

That would have noth­ing to do with you, or your coun­cil, Mayor Coombs. How­ever, as long as some­one else is foot­ing the bill, it would be an­other nice place in town.

The mayor states: “It’s a beau­ti­ful build­ing lot, with an ocean view. I’ll be sad to see it go.”

How does this town and what his­tor­i­cal struc­tures are left weather the myr­iad of risks they cur­rently face? A coun­cil that is not dy­namic, nor grounded in local part­ner­ships, who do not con­sider her­itage in their town plan­ning, and are con­sis­tently not fo­cused on long-term sus­tain­abil­ity.

No won­der the town is threat­ened on nu­mer­ous fronts. Much of Ri­d­ley Hall’s haunt­ing beauty re­mains, and it will re­main long af­ter it is de­mol­ished.

Mayor Coombs, you and your coun­cil may have left the de­ci­sion for the fu­ture own­ers of Ri­d­ley Hall to be the ones to tear it down. But you and your coun­cil are solely re­spon­si­ble for the turn­ing of the axe on the most sto­ried, and fa­bled build­ing in Har­bour Grace. I would think it is a de­ci­sion that will haunt you.

Rhonda Par­sons writes from Toronto. She is a sea­sonal res­i­dent of Har­bour Grace, and spent many sum­mers dur­ing her youth in the town.

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