The built form of Smiths Falls’ downtown area represents a wide array of architectural styles and eras based on the Town’s history of booms, busts, and economic and social change. In concert with the Town’s landscape and natural features, this creates Smiths Falls’ unique character. Implementing a Heritage Conservation District Study and Plan is part of Council’s new Strategic Plan Initiative 3.6 to preserve the unique heritage of our downtown.

Heritage conservation districts recognize the collective heritage value of areas and neighbourhoods with common threads such as construction timeframes, architectural features and styles, neighbourhood design and development. Through designation under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act, municipalities can identify and preserve neighbourhoods with unique heritage characteristics. This is done by creating a heritage district plan which provides guidelines for managing future development and alteration of existing heritage structures.

While heritage conservation districts are recognized as a conservation strategy in the Town of Smiths Falls’ Official Plan, to date, the Town has only focused on the designation of individual properties under Part IV of the Act. As a result, several properties within the Downtown Core and nearby have some level of protection under the Act as designated properties or on the Registry as “properties of interest.” However, there is no overarching vision for how these individual properties form a cohesive and distinct heritage landscape. 

In light of the growing interest in the cultural heritage of the area, as well as in consideration of the growing development pressures we see, a need has been identified to investigate planning tools and policies to manage intensification, ensure compatible development and protect the attributes that define the sense of place, as we change and grow.

What is a Heritage Conservation District?

A Heritage Conservation District is a concentration of cultural heritage resources designated under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act (OHA) that may include:

  • Buildings or structures
  • Designed or natural landscapes (like streets, natural features, parks, etc.)
  • Important views and vistas

A shared aesthetic, history, use, or socio-cultural context links the cultural heritage resources in an Heritage Conservation District. This is reflected by:

  • A sense of visual coherence that conveys a distinct sense of time and place
  • A distinct character that allows the district to be distinguishable from its neighbouring areas
  • A physical framework composed of natural features like watercourses or landforms and built forms like street patterns, pathways, or landmarks

Why complete a Heritage Conservation District study?

  • An opportunity to identify important cultural, natural, and built heritage characteristics associated with the area
  • Identify what is an integral part of the development of the community and its surroundings
  • Work with the property owners and community members to identify its architectural and cultural heritage
  • Establish a framework where the community can grow and change as it has in the past and will continue to do in the future while preserving and protecting what makes it a unique and important place.

Online Survey Now Available!

On May 30th, from 5-7 pm, the Town of Smiths Falls Municipal Heritage Committee hosted a Public Information Centre in the Town Hall's Welcome Centre to gather comments and suggestions from residents and businesses alike about the Downtown Core Heritage Conservation District Study (HCD) currently underway.  The well-attended event established open dialogue about this exciting project that outlined what an HCD can do for a community if awarded a designation. 

All participants had the opportunity to complete a survey, which allowed everyone to have a voice in the project. 

Complete the survey now by following this link to share your thoughts about the HCD study!  The survey will be available only until June 28th.  Paper copies are available at the Town Hall reception.

Next Steps

  • Preliminary Research and Data Analysis:  Field investigation, report preparation, submission, and review process
  • Built Form and Landscape Survey: Compile inventory findings, boundary assessment, and recommendations into draft Heritage Conservation District Study Report
  • Public Information Centre:  The first of two Public Information Centres was held on May 30th with the second being slated for Fall 2024.  
  • Receive community input and prepare the final Heritage Conservation District Study report
  • Determine if the area merits Heritage Conservation District designation
  • Presentation of the final Heritage Conservation District Study report to the municipal heritage committee, planning committee and Council
  • Public Information Centre to review the draft Study in the Fall 2024


Can I still make changes to my property?

Yes! Changes to your property should be compatible with its overall character in terms of its historical, architectural, and cultural context.

What kind of guidelines will there be?

Guidelines will be provided for alterations (windows, doors, materials, etc.), additions, demolition, new construction, landscaping, and public works.

Will an Heritage Conservation District stop development?

No! Heritage Conservation Districts are designed to encourage compatible development.

Will the process involve “red tape”?

Yes! There will be some element of “red tape” as many Heritage Conservation Districts integrate the process with other planning applications that are needed; minor changes don’t require permits.

Will being in an Heritage Conservation District decrease my property values?

Current research suggests that property values will remain stable or improve in an Heritage Conservation District.

Will applying for permits cost money?

It is too early to know.  There is a lot of flexibility for municipalities as to how they administer the process.

What are the benefits of an Heritage Conservation District?

  • Protecting and conserving an area’s unique and distinct cultural heritage resources
  • Revitalization of an area
  • Potential for economic spin-offs and tourism generation, such as enhancement of community identity, pride, and involvement, and creating a legacy for future generations.
Why Create a Heritage District?

Why designate a Heritage Conservation District?

District designation enables a municipality to manage and guide future change by adopting a district plan with policies and guidelines for the conservation, protection, and enhancement of the area’s unique character.

An Heritage Conservation District is a valuable tool for protecting the investments that many of you are making in your community through pride of ownership and maintenance of heritage property. For example, an Heritage Conservation District can help prevent inappropriate property alterations that damage or detract from the collective heritage character. It puts everyone on the same playing field, including the municipality, for their own municipal improvement projects and clarifies expectations for the development community. The Heritage Conservation District Plan is an accessible, plain-language document that seeks to guide change in a way that is sensitive to the character of the area.

What do Heritage Conservation Districts do?

Broadly speaking, Heritage Conservation Districts are planning tools that protect an area with a defined heritage character. They are implemented by passing a municipal by-law that designates the area. To manage change in the area, a heritage permit system is implemented within the Heritage Conservation District for certain things like additions, new-build designs, or major exterior alterations to buildings.

Heritage Conservation Districts are intended to:

  • Create a planning process that respects a community’s history and identity
  • Manage change with a process of heritage alteration permits for certain types of renovation, restoration, and new construction
  • Foster an appreciation of a community’s heritage resources
  • Protect the integrity of buildings, streetscapes, structures, landforms, and natural features
  • Promote cultural tourism

 What do Heritage Conservation Districts NOT do?

  • Stop new construction or redevelopment
  • Lower property values
  • Cause owners to lose their property rights
  • Require all new construction to match a specific historical style or be rebuilt ‘like for like’ where catastrophic events occur (fire, flood, natural disasters, etc.).
  • Make owners require a permit for minor alterations

What is the Ontario Heritage Act?

The Ontario Heritage Act (OHA) is provincial legislation that governs the protection of cultural heritage resources in Ontario. The OHA allows municipalities and the province to designate individual properties or districts as being of cultural heritage value or interest. Under Part V, the OHA enables municipalities to designate areas containing multiple properties as Heritage Conservation Districts (Heritage Conservation Districts).

The OHA was amended in 2023 under the More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022 (Bill 23), with regulatory changes to Ontario Regulation (O. Reg) 9/06 and O. Reg 385/21. The changes to O. Reg 9/06 include two items specific to Heritage Conservation Districts:

  1. New rules about how the criteria for determining cultural heritage value or interest (CHVI) is applied to district designations, made effective January 2023
  2. New rules for amending and repealing heritage conservation district plans, currently under development


 Who's Listening?

For more information contact:

Karl Grenke

Manager of Development Services

613-283-4124 ext. 1116

Richard Grant

Planner I

613-283-4124 ext. 1123

Marie Elmsley

Planning Clerk

613-283-4124 ext. 1136


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