Heritage

The City of Westmount has made numerous efforts to protect, enhance and preserve its built heritage and its rich landscapes.

The following sections are intended to present an overall portrait of the city, describe the administrative structure responsible for heritage, and highlight the various projects undertaken by the Westmount Local Heritage Council (LHC).

MORE INFORMATION

Some key definitions of « heritage » related to conservation and built heritage:

Historic Place: a structure, building, group of buildings, district, landscape, archaeological site or other place in Canada that has been formally recognized for its heritage value.

Heritage Value: the aesthetic, historic, scientific, cultural, social or spiritual importance or significance for past, present and future generations. The heritage value of an historic place is embodied in its character-defining materials, forms, location, spatial configurations, uses and cultural associations or meanings.

Character-defining Element: the materials, forms, location, spatial configurations, uses and cultural associations or meanings that contribute to the heritage value of an historic place, which must be retained to preserve its heritage value.

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Ref. PARKS CANADA (pan-Canadian Collaboration), Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada, Second Edition, 2010

The City of Westmount is proud to be a vibrant, independent, primarily residential community. Situated on the southwest slope of one of the three summits of Mount Royal, it is surrounded by the City of Montreal. Since its founding at the end of the 19th century, the City has been home to a diverse population, ethnically, spiritually and economically. Westmount encompasses an urban forest, numerous parks and playgrounds, as well as cultural, religious and educational institutions. City bylaws and guidelines favour sustainable initiatives and practices to protect both the natural and built environment. The efforts to preserve the built form, natural environment, and the heritage – both tangible and intangible – have been recognized most recently through the designation of much of the city as a National Historic Site by Parks Canada in 2011. The description of the Historic Place reads in part:”(…) The site is representative of a prosperous Victorian and post-Victorian suburb in Canada, and is defined by its architectural and landscape heritage reminiscent of the period between 1890 and 1930. A local architectural and planning board regulated development beginning in 1914 [1916]. Defined by its high-quality residential buildings, notable public buildings, schools, and places of worship, the district also features grid-like streets and its network of landscaped public and private green spaces. (…)”

The City established committees responsible of heritage such as the Westmount Local Heritage Council (LHC) and the Planning Advisory Committee (PAC). Each of them has their respective mandates. The City also has a planning program and a regulatory framework, which includes prescriptive or discretionary by-laws (see section below “Planning Tools and Regulation”).

WESTMOUNT LOCAL HERITAGE COUNCIL

The Westmount Local Heritage Council (LHC) was established in 2016. Its mandate is to advise the City Council on any matter relating to the Cultural Heritage Act. The projects can include the recognition of a heritage property, the identification of elements of intangible heritage, etc. The LHC also encourages the development of projects that raise awareness of cultural heritage.

The LHC has initiated several projects, including the recognition of the Glen Viaduct as a heritage immovable (By-law 1509) and the Houses of Worship Project (see section “Heritage Projects”).

The organizational structure of the Westmount Local Heritage Council (LHC) is formed as follows: the Planning Advisory Committee (PAC) acts as the LHC (By-law 1320), with the addition of two permanent members: an expert in cultural heritage and a representative of the Westmount Historical Association. An additional guest expert may be selected based on the specificity of the project under study. The LHC also operates under its specific Rules of Procedure. The LHC holds four regular meetings per year with extra meetings as needed.

The organizational structure of the LHC is as follows:

PLANNING ADVISORY COMMITTEE

First created in 1916 as the Architectural Commission, the Planning Advisory Committee (PAC) is an advisory body to the City Council. In accordance with the Act Respecting Land Use Planning and Development, the Committee has the power, among others, to study and submit recommendations to City Council on all matters pertaining to planning, zoning, subdivision and building in Westmount (By-law 1320). The Committee is unusual because of the professional expertise of its membership. Aside from the Urban Planning Commissioner, the other members must be architects or urban planners who reside in Westmount (and one can be a non-resident.) The PAC plays a key role in ensuring the conservation of Westmount’s heritage. In its reviews, the Committee interprets the municipal Guidelines for Renovating and Building in Westmount. The Committee meets approximately three times a month. The City marked the recent centennial of the PAC in 2016 with several projects and public events.

BY-LAW TO RECOGNIZE THE GLEN VIADUCT AS A HERITAGE IMMOVABLE (COMPLETED)

The recognition of the Glen Viaduct as a Heritage Immovable (By-law 1509), adopted in 2017, was the first project undertaken by the Westmount Local Heritage Council. The Glen Viaduct was Westmount’s first major public works project. Completed in 1892, the Trenton limestone arch supported the CPR train tracks and allowed a public road through it, ensuring access to the neighbouring town of St-Henri. The Richardsonian Romanesque structure was widened in 1918-19 and today remains landmark transition point into and out of the city of Westmount. The by-law also adopts guidelines from the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada for cultural landscapes and civil works.

WESTMOUNT PLANNING PROGRAM

The Westmount Planning Program is a document which integrates the City’s vision and the general aims of land development policy. It also sets objectives for the resolution of planning issues. Westmount’s planning approach focuses on maintaining the significant assets of the city – built and natural – using regulations and zoning that favour conservation and discourage land speculation and demolition. The insistence on the application of guidelines based on the retention of heritage character ensures appropriate, high-quality construction and renovation throughout Westmount.

BY-LAW ON SITE PLANNING AND ARCHITECTURAL INTEGRATION PROGRAMMES (SPAIP)

The By-law on Site Planning and Architectural Integration Programmes (By-law 1305), adopted in 1995, sets out detailed guidelines for building and renovating in Westmount, based on expert evaluations of buildings and neighborhoods. The territory is divided into 39 Character Areas (Annex I), according shared physical and historical characteristics of the buildings. One of the four following categories is attributed to each property: exceptional, important, significant or neutral. The range of interventions possible for each of these categories is included in the companion document entitled Guidelines for Building and Renovating in Westmount (Annex II).

HERITAGE CHARACTER DEFINING ELEMENTS: CATEGORY 1* BUILDINGS

The By-law on Site Planning and Architectural Integration Programmes also includes the document Heritage Character Defining Elements: Category 1* Buildings, City of Westmount (Annex III) intended to help owners of exceptional (Category 1*) heritage buildings develop long-term conservation strategies specific to their property.

CONSERVATION STRATEGY INFORMATION DOCUMENT (CATEGORY 1* PROPERTIES)

In addition, as stated in the By-law on Site Planning and Architectural Integration Programmes, owners with Category 1* properties must develop a conservation strategy if they are modifying their property. The City offers an information document which lists the submittal requirements for the Conservation Strategy.