There’s fresh hope for Richmond Hill nature lovers and astronomy buffs who fought the University of Toronto’s sale of the David Dunlap Observatory and its grounds to a developer last year.

The provincial Conservation Review Board has recommended that much of the 77-hectare site be designated a cultural heritage site.

In a 61-page report released last week, the CRB offered a thorough, building-by-building rationale for its recommendations.

The board recommended the designation for the observatory building, a separate administration building, the historic home known as Elms Lea and land directly connecting the buildings. It also called for protecting Donalda Drive, a curved entrance road flanked by mature trees, a radio astronomy shack, a cluster of trees planted by the U of T’s forestry department, and almost all the connecting land.

The recommendations cover about 80 per cent of the site and go well beyond those of the Town of Richmond Hill and new owner Metrus, which sought during a January board hearing to limit designation to a small swath of land around the historic buildings and entrance.

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