To prevent Old Beloeil from becoming “New Beloeil”

Concerned by the gradual disappearance of its built heritage, the City of Beloeil intends to take all means to preserve it. To do this, it soon intends to name a block of 55 old buildings of interest.

The municipality of Montérégie has tabled a draft by-law to protect the exterior facades of these buildings, which are mostly located in Old Beloeil or along the Richelieu River.

“When I arrived in Beloeil in 2007, the old houses on the water’s edge and the mountain seduced me. There was a cachet, a soul. With hindsight, I see that our heritage is gradually withering away. I feel a duty as a municipality to take care of them and preserve these beautiful buildings,” said Mayor Nadine Viau.

The latter regretfully observes that Vieux-Beloeil is slowly transforming into “New-Beloeil”.

Quebec municipalities have already cited buildings as heritage assets, but none of them cited 55 at once, says the mayor who recognizes that this decision is bold.

“We want to send an important message to the population: the building heritage, the day it is demolished, it is gone forever. It’s so easy to destroy a heritage building, it barely takes half a day,” she said.

The mayoress was able to see firsthand the difficulty cities have in protecting their built heritage when she worked for a few years for the city’s urban planning department, which she heads today.

“We did not have strong enough regulations to oppose the demolition of a heritage building when the elected officials and the administration did not want this building to be demolished. We had to accept the promoter’s request because it met all the criteria in place,” she recalls.

A church and a house of culture

Buildings targeted for municipal protection have a “strong”, “superior” and “exceptional” heritage value. Among them, there is a church, a house of culture and several private residences. Other buildings are restaurants, professional offices and service shops. To choose them, Beloeil based itself on a report produced in 2015 by a firm specializing in cultural heritage.

The owners were notified in early summer of the City’s intention. They will be able to be heard during a public consultation on September 14, a few weeks before the regulation comes into force.

Mayor Viau says she wants to support owners with tools and possible solutions to ensure that the exterior of buildings is protected. Moreover, subsidies will be available to them, because the City has joined a support program for the municipal real estate heritage sector of the MRC de la Vallée-du-Richelieu.

It should be noted that the protection of immovable heritage was strengthened last year with the entry into force of amendments to the legislation put forward by the Minister of Culture and Communications, Nathalie Roy, following a series of high-profile demolitions of heritage buildings in recent years.

Under these amendments, MRCs are now required “to establish an inventory of buildings that present a heritage interest on their territory” and “municipalities are […] required to issue public notices, to hold consultations and to inform the Minister of Culture and Communications in the event of a request for a demolition permit”, specified the Minister’s office when they came into force on 1er April 2021.

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