Heritage committee chair’s resignation a puzzler to some
Puzzlement and anger has greeted the abrupt resignation last week of Greg Heil from his long-held post as chairman of the city’s heritage committee following a disagreement about what he termed “potential political influences” in the Olde Sandwich Towne heritage study.
Mayor Eddie Francis dismissed the resignation as manufacturing an issue and said he was not clear what motivated Heil’s decision.
“At the end of the day, a volunteer can do what a volunteer wants to do,” said Francis. “I would thank him for his services to the community and wish him luck.”
In his resignation letter Heil stated he was concerned about being the target of “litigious fallout” after the committee’s final report was approved and included homes on the east side of Indian Road within its heritage district boundaries in Sandwich. The Ambassador Bridge company owns a majority of homes on the street and wants to demolish them to make way for a second span, which the city has opposed.
Heil suggested the designation and the company ownership sets up a potential legal quagmire and added that, while he has no sympathy for the bridge corporation, he could not preside over a committee approving of the heritage study and he suggested “ulterior motives” were behind the designation, which could stall bridge development.
Ward 2 Coun. Ron Jones was more blunt in his assessment of Heil’s resignation.
“Since he came to the committee he has been difficult to get along with,” said Jones. “All committee members had run-ins with him. I welcome his resignation.”
Mary Ann Cuderman, a resident who sits on the Sandwich Redevelopment Committee, said she does not understand what has been going on “behind the scenes” that would have led to Heil’s sudden decision to quit.
“It’s a puzzlement to me,” she said. “Making this a heritage district is so important to the community improvement plan. I was shocked.... He wasn’t at the last meeting and I was not sure why at that point.”
She said that at many meetings, Heil would inject his own opinion into arguments, rather than facilitating debate.
“I don’t know the politics behind it,” she said. “To me it’s not an issue over the bridge. It’s what’s best for Sandwich.”