As Chair of the Oak Bay Heritage Commission, I submit each year an annual report on behalf of all Commission members. The following is our report for 2017, as well as a poster of upcoming events next week to celebrate Heritage Week in Oak Bay, thanks to Caroline Duncan and the Oak Bay Archives:
OAK BAY HERITAGE COMMISSION
2017 ANNUAL REPORT
Prepared by Cairine Green, Chair
The Oak Bay Heritage Commission had another busy year in 2017 because of a group of dedicated volunteers who initiated, promoted and supported a range of community and municipal heritage activities. These involved Council referrals, consulting with staff, public education, information-sharing and making key recommendations to Municipal Council decision-making on heritage land use.
The Commission was pleased to see a major community-driven proposal take further shape, Oak Bay’s first Heritage Conservation Area (HCA) proposal for the Prospect Place neighbourhood. A municipally-led working group has formalized the proposal, chaired by Council Liaison to Heritage, Councilor Kevin Murdoch. The Commission is represented by member Heather Cochran. This group has an ambitious agenda and hopes to complete its work by early Spring 2018, with a target of May or June 2018 when it is hoped that the neighbourhood is designated as Oak Bay’s first HCA.
The Commission’s Sub-Committees continued to focus their work around significant heritage events, projects and initiatives that provide a positive framework for public engagement.
The Commission also embarked on a major planning and review session in October which remains “a work in progress,” with Part 2 to be continued in early 2018. This review will include the 2013 Heritage Strategic Plan, to be assessed to determine what can be implemented in 2018, followed by updates to the Plan. A small working group of three volunteers (Robert Taylor, Cora Smith and Heather Cochran) have agreed to undertake this work and return to the Commission with their results, before late spring if possible.
Staff changes in the Building and Planning Department included the departure of Director Roy Thomassen, the addition of planner Graeme Bethell and promotion of planner Deborah Jensen to Acting Director.
Administrative Assistant Krista Mitchell continued to provide excellent administrative support to Commission meetings and in the fall, offered to process all correspondence on our behalf so that outgoing materials are completed on Municipal letterhead and remain consistent with municipal Corporate Services’ standards. Krista’s offer of support will enhance the work of the Commission, again raising our profile related to heritage conservation in Oak Bay.
We appreciate the participation of Department staff because without them, we could not move forward. Therefore, as goals for 2018, we want to strengthen staff relationships and improve communication between staff and Commission volunteers, reinforcing the fact that “we are all in this together.”
The Commission also thanks Councillor Kevin Murdoch for his continued support as Council Liaison.
- Education Committee – Marg Palmer, Chair
Working with the Oak Bay Heritage Foundation and the Business Improvement Association (BIA), the Committee again managed and staffed a booth at the Summer Night Markets’ series and introduced to the public a new display banner featuring designated homes. Involvement in this venue has continued to boost the community profile of Oak Bay Heritage and demonstrates the synergy that exists when the Committee works with other community organizations. We thank the BIA for their continued support.
The Committee organized four lectures as part of Oak Bay Heritage’s annual lecture series — in March with speakers Michael Arneja, Torsten Ely and Maximillian Huxley, on Heritage Renovation and Green Tips; in September with speaker Yvonne Van Ruskenveld, on More Than Homebodies – The Women of Oak Bay; in October with speaker Stuart Stark, on Exhibition Dreams – The History of Oak Bay’s Most Amazing Building; and, in November with speaker Kate Humble, on Coming Home – Architects, Design and the First World War.
In August, at Oak Bay’s annual artists’ event, the Bowker Creek Brush-Up, sub-committee members hosted a booth provided by the Hallmark Society.
The Committee also worked together with the Community Association of Oak Bay (CAOB) to host in April a public discussion on the proposed Prospect Place Heritage Conservation Area. In November, similar collaboration occurred with CAOB and the Heritage Foundation at a public presentation by Larry McCann, on the proposal to designate the Uplands as a National Historic site. Once again, these public events were often “standing room only,” reflecting the strength of working partnerships.
An Oak Bay Heritage Facebook page was created to increase our ability to publicize lectures and to reach the public through social media.
- Community Heritage Register Committee (Registration and Designation) – Joan Heagle, Chair
Heritage Conservation Areas are another heritage planning tool designed to protect clusters of homes and spaces in a specific area or neighbourhood. As previously mentioned, the Prospect Place HCA proposal is promising for Oak Bay, and sub-committee member Pat Wilson has continued as liaison to this neighbourhood group.
The Committee will continue to play a vital role in 2018, in tracking and content development for the Community Heritage Register, demonstrating the need for additional heritage planning expertise as a staffing priority for the Building and Planning Department. Without this professional resource, it will be a daunting challenge for the Committee to make expanding and updating the Register a major priority in 2018. Volunteer capacity and energy are always considerations when it comes to workload and in this regard, discussions with Acting Director Deborah Jensen are ongoing.
Council had asked the Heritage Commission to provide input and recommendations on a June 2016 motion related to Oak Bay’s Community Heritage Register and how it might be expanded. Much of 2017, therefore, was dedicated to the ongoing status of the Register and to strategies that would not only expand the Register but also educate homeowners about the advantages of registration and designation. In fact, eighty letters were sent to Oak Bay homeowners asking them to consider designating their homes.
There were a number of homes registered or designated that included 1329 St. Patrick St; 2018 Meadow Place; 2608 Cavendish; and 2390 Oak Bay Ave. As well, there are Heritage Revitalization Agreements under consideration by the Building and Planning Department.
A new heritage brochure was finally completed and printed for distribution, a key promotional tool to educate and inform the community about Oak Bay Heritage.
- Tourism Committee – Marion Cumming, Liaison
Commission member Marion Cumming continued to fill this role throughout 2017 and did a good job of keeping both the Commission and the Tourism Committee informed about events and activities of mutual interest. At the 2017 Oak Bay Heritage Christmas gathering, Marion arranged for gifts and recognition of two Oak Bay residents who worked to bring greater exposure to Oak Bay’s history and heritage. The Heritage Commission will continue with the liaison position and monitor how it can enhance support for heritage and tourism.
Looking Ahead to 2018
Again, to restate, without active volunteers and their dedication, creative energy and commitment to the Oak Bay Heritage Commission, the successful delivery of 2017 activities and projects would not have been as successful.
Our volunteers remain at the heart of the work and to reiterate from last year’s annual report, “effective volunteer recruitment and retention remain key to building and maintaining the strength and capacity of the Oak Bay Heritage Commission”.
2017 Oak Bay Heritage Commission volunteers were: Marg Palmer, Joan Heagle, Bronwyn Taylor, Robert Taylor, Marion Cumming, Susan Ross, Monica Walter, Jane Hall, Heather Cochran and Cora Smith. The only departure was Marg Palmer, whose term has expired. Marg is big loss to the Commission; she has been an inspiration to the Education Committee and a walking encyclopedia on Oak Bay Heritage and history. While Marg will be greatly missed, we wish her well in her next iteration. The good news is that, at the time of writing this report, Pat Wilson has been re-appointed to the Heritage Commission.
2017 was another challenging year for Oak Bay as the pace and extent of re-development in our community remained active. As a result, the Oak Bay Heritage Commission will continue its efforts to seek a greater role in land use decision-making and housing policy, where appropriate.
In 2016, the Heritage Commission recommended the following action items in its annual report. They are again being included in this 2017 report, given that work on these remains largely outstanding and should be part of the Commission work plan in 2018:
- The Heritage Commission recommends that the terminology “mandatory vs. voluntary” be eliminated from any further references to the Community Heritage Register.
- The District of Oak Bay considers exploring a contractual agreement with the City of Victoria or other municipality with specific heritage planning expertise, to assist Oak Bay to systematically update its heritage policies and practices and align them with provincial legislation.
- The District of Oak Bay ensures that a “heritage lens” be applied to such initiatives as the municipality’s urban forest strategy and infill housing strategy, and that if appropriate, the Heritage Commission be requested to provide formal comments to the consultation process as this work moves ahead.
- The District of Oak Bay considers Heritage Conservation Areas as effective planning tools for land use, consistent with existing provisions in the 2014 Official Community Plan, to protect and enhance community heritage values in established neighbourhoods.
- The District of Oak Bay completes the existing photography project and updating of materials on community values/Statements of Significance, related to the Community Heritage Register.
Recommendations on additional action items from the 2016 Oak Bay Heritage Commission Annual Report remain relevant for 2017 and 2018 that include:
- Review and update the 2013 Heritage Strategic Plan and provide advice to staff and Council as to how this plan can be better integrated into the 2014 OCP implementation process and land use planning in general.
- Identify where and how the work of the Commission, through closer collaboration with staff, can be more relevant and meaningful heritage conservation and to the work of the Advisory Planning Commission and Advisory Design Panel.
- Update and expand the Community Heritage Register in consultation with Oak Bay staff and a heritage planning consultant (should one be appointed).
The Commission believes that this work is still vital to its role as a strong voice for the conservation and preservation of Oak Bay’s unique heritage, history and culture.
The Commission also believes that a proactive approach to short and long-term heritage planning and conservation by Mayor and Council, staff and Commission volunteers working together, is essential to protecting the community’s heritage assets most valued by residents.
On behalf of the Heritage Commission, sincere appreciation is extended to:
- Marg Palmer, outgoing long-term Heritage Commission volunteer. Her leadership and work as Chair of the Education Sub-Committee was invaluable and a hallmark in the community.
- Pat Wilson for her ongoing work as liaison between the Registration/Designation Sub-Committee and the key proponents of the Prospect Place Heritage Conservation Area.
- Heather Cochran for her willingness to serve as Commission representative on the Heritage Conservation Area working group established by the municipality.
To all of our Commission volunteers, thank you for your support and commitment during 2017 and I look forward to working with all of you again in 2018. It has been a privilege to serve as your Commission Chair over the past year 2017.
Oak Bay Heritage Commission