A building in Chelmsford that was home to Catholic nuns for more than 80 years should be declared a heritage building and saved from demolition, city staff is recommending.
In a report city councillors will debate at their regular meeting Wednesday, staff said the building at 3616 Errington Ave. is owned by Sudbury's French-language school board. It is located just to the north of the existing St. Joseph Church.
Le Conseil scolaire catholique du Nouvel-Ontario has given notice it wants to tear the building down. To save it form demolition, city council must designate it a heritage building under the Ontario Heritage Act, the report said.
Under the act, a landowner who is refused a demolition permit no longer has an automatic right to demolish a designated building once a cooling off period has expired. Instead, the landowner has the option to appeal the permit refusal to the Ontario Municipal Board and the OMB will make the final decision on whether or not a demolition permit should issue.
Where the board refuses to issue a permit, the landowner would have no choice but to preserve the heritage building.
City staff said it agrees with the city's Municipal Heritage Advisory Panel that the former convent is an important part of Chelmsford's history and ought to be preserved.
"The site has a long history that is linked to the settlement of Chelmsford in the late 19th century and speaks to the important role of the Catholic Church in shaping the development and existing character of Chelmsford," the report to council said.
The two-storey brick building was constructed 1899 for use as a presbytery. The building later became home to the Grey Sisters of the Cross of Ottawa in 1906. The Grey Sisters, who became the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa in 1964, owned the site until 2008, when it was closed.
The Grey Sisters came to Chelmsford in 1906 to provide French-language education to the area. The building was home to the nuns who served as teachers.
"During their tenure, the Grey Sisters realized a number of accomplishments that help to define the character of Chelmsford and the surrounding area," the report said.
The building was one of the earliest brick buildings in Chelmsford, designed in the Queen Anne Revival style. It retains many of its original features including hip roof, ornate wood cornice and symmetrical window spaces that create a regular rhythm against the square building faces.
City councillors must act quickly if they want to preserve the building. Since the school board has applied to tear it down, the city must, under Ontario Building Code, issue a permit for the demolition for the building by Aug. 18.
However, council can declare that it wants to designate the building a heritage site, beginning a review process.
"This notice is given to the property owner, Ontario Heritage Trust and general public," the staff report said.
"The Ontario Heritage Act prohibits the alteration of any defined heritage attributes or demolition of a building once such a notice is given, pending completion of the full public designation process, which involves a 30-day objection period and rights of referral to the Conservation Review Board."