05/31/2012 09:26 EDT | Updated 07/31/2012 05:12 EDT

Lawrence Park divided by house demolition

Some residents of Lawrence Park are angry that a house they fought to be designated a heritage home has been torn down by its owners.

The house at 141 Dinnick Crescent was bought more than a year ago by a family intending to tear it down to build a new house.

After purchasing the property, the new owners were shocked to learn that some of their neighbours were pushing for a heritage home designation for the property.

“We did our due diligence,” said owner Tim Stanley. “We checked if there was any heritage issues. We checked with the owner who never indicated, so we were totally blindsided by this.”

The Ontario Municipal Board ruled this week that the Stanelys had the right to tear the home down, a ruling that came as a relief to them. The demolition is now well underway.

“We've been carrying two mortgages,” said Charlotte Stanley. “Trying to plan for when do we sell, trying to plan for when do we move, legal costs. It's been an uphill battle for us.”

The home was built 80 years ago and the Stanleys say it was beyond salvaging.

But heritage advocates say losing the house erases a bit of the neighbourhood’s history.

“A lot of the older houses are being demolished,” said Alex Grenzebach of the North York Community Preservation Panel. “The new houses are forming a monoculture of what I call Unionville-style suburbia and it really changes the nature of Lawrence Park.”

John McNeil lives across the street from the Stanley property. He’s had his house appraised and says with a heritage designation, the value of his home drops because it prevents any extensive renovations or additions.

“So that's a drop in fair-market value of about a third,” he told CBC News. “That would be devastating in terms of our retirement income.”

The area's city councillor wanted to see the heritage designation granted. It was supposed to be reviewed by city council next week.

“The OMB judge determined that she made a decision and basically usurped the process and once again Toronto doesn't have a say in how we define our neighbourhoods and that's a shame,” said Coun. Jaye Robinson.

A town hall meeting on heritage designations is planned for next month.