- Two beautiful pen and ink drawings of two local heritage houses, done by Oak Bay architect and Heritage Commission member Carl Peterson, were presented to the homeowners and to Council by Pat Wilson, Heritage Commission Chair and Commission member Joan Heagle who coordinated the commemoration. The framed renditions will hang in the Council Chamber, joining other drawings by the same artist.
- It was announced that the new Oak Bay Beach Hotel’s Kate’s Cafe is now open.
- The first neighbourhood meeting is tentatively scheduled for November 19 and staff have been asked to explore possible locations. I am pleased about this, given that I have been advocating for these meetings since the election. I will keep you posted on details but this is good news for the community.
- The Business Improvement Association (BIA) attended Council to ask for a waiver for staff costs to support the forthcoming pumpkin art display; I voted with Council to approve their request. On a second BIA request to occupy public property with storage containers related to the pumpkin art event, it seems that Oak Bay’s current zoning bylaw is prohibitive. I asked about the BIA applying for a temporary use permit and staff will explore this and get back to us with further information.
The designated heritage house and property at 1936 Hampshire Rd. was finally put to bed when a Council majority voted to support a motion to grant the owner’s latest application for a Heritage Alteration Permit. I voted against the motion and gave my reasons in detail.
Regrettably, this matter has been ongoing since spring and has been contentious at times. As Council Liaison to the Heritage Commission, this was a challenging issue and decision for them, for Council, for staff and for me. Twice the Commission recommended to Council against the owner’s proposal to destroy the only stone garage in Oak Bay (c. 1908) and to substantially alter the property, including the loss of two protected Chestnut trees.
In my opinion, the combination of a protracted process, lack of urban planning expertise and a persistent homeowner who raised traffic safety concerns for his family as the driving force behind his proposal, made this a more difficult situation in the long run when it comes to heritage protection.
There is a tension between a desire for heritage preservation, conservation and protection and provisions of provincial legislation that allow some flexibility on a Heritage Alteration Permit, related primarily to livability and sustainability. Finding the right balance is the real challenge for local decision-makers; the Council majority believed that the right balance was achieved through the homeowner’s final proposal. I did not.
I hope that in the future, once the Heritage Commission completes an assessment of community values and a plan to move forward related to local heritage, we can somehow educate ourselves and the public about what heritage means and how it can be sustained.