Owners choose heritage to protect their home

Lengthy process begins for potential designation

Tom Eadie hopes to preserve the future, by protecting the past.

The Oak Bay resident formally requested heritage designation for the 100-year-old Bowker Avenue home he has shared with his wife since 1988, hoping to extend its life beyond his own and shielding it from development when he is gone.

“It protects it from the developer who wants to strip it down and put in something else, protects it for future generations, he said. “We plan to live here for a long time but change has to happen, it would be nice to have it protected.”

Having previously lived in a heritage home in Victoria, the professional musician said the age, character and architecture of his home adds an important element to the community and its unique charms was one of the motivating factors in the couple’s move to Oak Bay 26 years ago.

“I love the originality of older homes because they were often built to suit, and one of a kind,” he said. “The level of craftsmanship, the details, the trim, the woodworking, I love all of that.”

Two formal requests for heritage designation, including Eadie’s were heard by Oak Bay council April 14. The request was forwarded to the Oak Bay Heritage Commission for review and a recommendation to the municipal registry, which would move it forward to the provincial registry before being accepted by the Canadian Register of Historic Places. Before any of that happens, however, OBHC’s Pat Wilson said there is a process to be followed.

“We look at three criteria: the social history of the house, the architectural history of the house and the environment – how it sits on the street and how it interacts with the neighbourhood,” she said.

Before being accepted, a statement of significance, legal documentation of the house, property and contribution to the heritage of Oak Bay drafted by a heritage consultant would need to accompany the request. The documentation would be paid for by the applicant, and only then could the OBHC formally make the designation, which would be accompanied with a plaque, paid for and provided by the municipality at a formal ceremony.

“We just did a community heritage plan and the first heritage value that came out was streetscapes and neighbourhood,” she said. “I love living in Oak Bay and I love the sense of neighbourhood and streetscape and all the aspects that make Oak Bay special.”

Wilson added there are factors to consider when applying for designation, including the higher cost of maintenance for the homeowner. While some may question the designation and the potential for extra time, cost and process involved in renovating and maintaining a heritage designated home, Wilson said it’s worth it.

“The advantage (is) you have something special. People do it because they love it. … To me that is a gift, saying, ‘we want to save this for the future,’” she said.

Eadie agreed, and hopes he will never see the day his home is razed and in a landfill, so he patiently awaits word from the commission.

“We are not at all rich, (but) we feel it’s worth the added expense to do these things,” Eadie said. “We just feel it’s part of the pleasure of living in the house and what we get from living in the house, sharing with our neighbours and others.”


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