After making unauthorized changes to their heritage home, an Ontario woman was told to reverse the changes by an inspector. “I thought it was a joke,” she said.

An Ontario woman said she failed to know that her home in Markham, ON was in a Heritage Conservation District when rebuilding it after it burned down in February 2020.

“I thought it was a joke,” Heather Bracey said about the heritage statement on the rental listing. “That’s when the house was built.”

Bracey said that there was a serious fire that had broken out in her house when she was renovating it. They had to rebuild the house and renovate it all over again.

“I’ve done extensive renovations and have used only the best materials,” Bracey said. “With custom doors, custom everything.”

She said she decided to give her house a fresh new look, which is different from her neighbors’. As it turned out, she was living in one of Markham’s four designated heritage zones and any changes would need to be pre-approved by the city.

When Heather Bracy’s home burned down in February of 2020, she didn’t know it was in a heritage district.

After Bracey’s home was completed, she received a “Direction to Comply” notice from the City of Markham that said, “The roofing selection, windows specifications, garage door selection and brick selection must be reviewed and approved by City staff through the heritage permitting process before ordering and installation.”

Bracey said she feels frustrated and overwhelmed by the city’s demand for her to change her home to work with heritage guidelines.

She said that her house needs the front door replaced, the garage door, and all of the windows and brickwork in addition to some work on other parts of the house.

Bracey said that she has no idea how much the change will cost and feels like the city should have done more to let her know that she was in a heritage zone before she completed the rebuild.

“Before the construction of the house, before the bricks were put into place and even when I picked out doors, I was never informed of any gas issues,” said Bracey.

When CTV News Toronto reached out to the City of Markham, a spokesperson said, “The City of Markham highly values its heritage districts and ensures that residents are aware of the obligations related to properties within the heritage districts. This ensures ongoing preservation.”

Markham has also helped to rebuild by expediting the building permits. As a result, they ensure that the owner has a safe place to live and can continue making memories with their loved ones.

The approved building permit drawings also show that they needed to meet heritage requirements in order to be given a separate heritage permit. This includes things like the type of roofing you chose, the window specifications, the garage door type, and what kind of brick you wanted.

“Failure to recognize these requirements is an issue between the owner and their consultant. The City of Markham sympathizes with the business owner and continues to work towards achieving a reasonable outcome that respects the heritage nature of the area.”

Bracey told Markham he should either allow her to stay in her home as it is, or pay for the modifications required to make it safe.

They can do it themselves,” Bracey said. “They can put what windows they want in the house, what doors they want and take the bricks off and color it whatever they want.”

A “century home” is any house that’s at least 100 years old. Heritage homes can be designated for many reasons, including a property’s design. If you buy one, it means you may not get to change its appearance or add onto it without permission from the municipality you live in.

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