Fifteen significant sites in Ponoka have been designated by town council as municipal historic resources.
A 16th, the wooden CPR dam on the Battle River, is seen has historically significant but because it is in the river, it is technically not within the municipality but it will be recognized in future planning.
“The preparation of this inventory is a major step in heritage management planning for the town,” consultant Judy Larmour told town council recently. “The inventory also forms the basis for a municipal designation program, which is essentially the next step to protect buildings through bylaw.”
Any future decisions involving a building’s designation by council as a Municipal Historic Resource will require the consent and involvement of the building owner. Owners of designated Municipal Historic Resources listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places are eligible for ongoing grants for approved conservation work that protect the character-defining features of the property.
Alterations to the “visible character-defining elements” of a building designated a Municipal Historic Resource would need prior approval from council, Larmour said. “It’s not just a matter of alterations; it’s also a matter or repairs.”
A significant historic building would communicate its significance by retaining sufficient integrity in its historic appearance and building materials. It may be significant for one or a combination of different reasons: for its design, such as the Sweet Block; or for its building materials, like the former Ponoka Community Rest Room; or its function like the Ponoka Jubilee Library.
Larmour said most owners of buildings on Ponoka’s heritage inventory “support the objectives of preserving the heritage of the town.” There is a willingness among these owners “to kind of get the ball rolling.”
“It is important to consider how the inventory can be integrated as a management tool in the town planning process, policies, databases and planning documents,” Larmour said. “So any proposed intervention that would affect the building or site would be automatically flagged in the system.
“When anything comes up about the building, everybody is aware from the get-go that it is a building that has been identified as a heritage site whether or not it has actually been designated.”
Under terms of the Alberta Historical Resources Act, owners of buildings designated a Municipal Historic Resource “are entitled to seek compensation from the municipality in relation to the economic value of the building should (it) be designated,” Larmour explained.
Compensation could be non-financial, it could be tax abatement, a relaxation of the parking requirement or the like.
Larmour suggested the Municipal Heritage Inventory and the statements of interest for each building be made available to the public at Town Hall and at Fort Ostell Museum.
Council should also support initiatives by the Fort Ostell Museum to build on the research and information from the inventory project to foster awareness of heritage buildings and continue the oral history project initiated under this project, she added.
A future phase 2 of the municipal inventory project could assess residential and non-commercial historic properties in Ponoka.