A house built for Toronto Maple Leafs founder Conn Smyth in a posh pocket of the city's west end should be designated as a heritage building, Etobicoke York Community Council said on Wednesday, voting to protect the home over the objection of the property's new owners.
The decision, which must now go before City Council in October, comes after local residents and preservations rushed the process to protect the 89-year-old Baby Point house from potential demolition after it went up for sale earlier this year.
The house sold for $2.7-million, in a deal that close last month. The new owners who say they were unaware the house was up for heritage designation.
The vote by Etobicoke York Community Council was unanimous. The chairman, Councillor Mark Grimes, noted that he and fellow Etobicoke Councillor Stephen Holyday sit on the board of the Hockey Hall of Fame and so are dedicated to preserving hockey history.
"I was going to declare a conflict on it because I have been a Maple Leaf season ticket holder for many years," Mr. Grimes said. " ... I don't know who their real estate agent was but I find it very hard to believe that they did not know this was Conn Smythe's."
The property's new owners, who have insisted on anonymity, sent a lawyer to Wednesday's meeting to say they oppose the designation and to request a deferral. They say they only found out about the heritage designation issue just days after their sale closed in August. But city staff warned that without heritage designation, demolition or building permits on the site could be approved at any time.
Once City Council has approved the designation, the new owners will still have the option of challenging the decision at the province's conservation review board. The designation would not affect the new owners' ability to alter the garage, the interior, or the north or west sides of the home, which are not considered heritage attributes.
While heritage advocates had to rush to protect Conn Smythe's home, the entire area – one of the city's first planned suburbs – is set to potentially become a heritage conservation district, meaning all of its historical homes would be subject to special protection. The process was approved earlier this year, and consultations are set to begin this fall.
Residents have raised alarms in recent years about the threat to historical houses in Baby Point from new owners, who could tear them down to build so-called "monster homes." The house next door to Conn Smythe's was torn down in 2010, prompting some in the area to form a heritage foundation to protect Baby Point homes.
Conn Smythe, who oversaw the construction of Maple Leaf Gardens, had the house built for him in 1927, and lived on Baby Point Road until his death in 1980.