Kory Glover
Record Staff
MORRISBURG – The Carmen House Museum continued to be a hot button topic for the South Dundas council, with deputy mayor Kristen Gardner heading up with an intense line of questions towards director of building and planning Donald Lewis.

Lewis reviewed his report from this previous Sept. 18 to state that building department mandate under provincial law is to ensure the health and safety issues are dealt with and the second floor requires an egress due to occupancy.

“One of the synopsis here was that the fact that an egress is needed on the second level because we’ve got a group C over a division A occupancy,” said Lewis. “So, when you have that, you have to have an egress, you have to have a form of egress. That egress would entail a fire shutter on the first level, removing the adjacent stairwell as that area would become the area for the mechanicals. We’ve also had to deal with the fire resistance rating and also sound transmission requirements along with energy efficiency.”

Lewis continued, “The primary objective is to make the whole thing safe for our occupants but at the same time, we have to deal with the existing construction methods and trying to, somehow, retain the character of the structure itself. So, 26 items were identified but I’ve been to council before and this is a council decision about what you want to do with the building.”

Gardner brought her own research to the table  to get clarity on some issues surrounding this long-winded topic, on her own.

“Normally, in a landlord/tenant relationship, the landlord would not call in the Ontario Building Code official to have a look at the property. What I found, in most cases, is that the tenant will call the official if the landlord is not doing the required maintenance,” she said. “So, I’m wondering, in the context of the authority, when you started this discussion, were you going in as the Ontario Building Code official or were you going in as your other title (director of building and planning).”

Lewis answered Gardner’s question by going into the history of what made this issue so hot today by explaining the tenant contacted his colleague which went on from there.

“So what started this process was that the tenant contacted my colleague and they were determined to make some changes,” he said. “The building code requires a “change of use” permit, which requires the Building Department to be involved.”

The deputy mayor continued her line of questioning, asking if there was a discussion about changing the use of the top floor as an accommodation and the use of the museum.

Lewis rebutted this question, stating that some of the requirements were dealt with from a structural engineering component. He also pointed out that an architect needs to be involved to help resolve any health and safety issues.

“Change of use is going to happen no matter what but I can get more clarification of the timing of when that will occur,” he said. 

More conversations and debates were made concerning what should be done about the stairwell, the furnace system and so forth so Mayor Steven Byvelds made the decision for the council to think about a final ruling during their next meeting in January.