Oak Bay Heritage Commission hopes to hold a greater role over the next two years in land use decision-making and housing policy development.
Heritage conservation in the community needs to be more proactive, the commission says, as outlined in chair Cairine Green’s annual report for 2016.
“I’m hoping some of the recommendations will be taken,” she said. “We’d like to retool the commission this year and get it really working.”
The commission would like to see an in-house review to look at the role of the Heritage Commission in general, seeking ways to improve its support of land use planning in Oak Bay. They want the district to explore working with the City of Victoria or other municipality with heritage planning expertise, to guide updates to heritage policies and practices.
The recommendations – designed to inform a heritage action plan for 2017 – include ensuring a heritage lens be applied to ongoing initiatives such as the urban forest strategy. They would like to see the district update community values and statements of significance on the Community Heritage Register and consider Heritage Conservation Areas as planning tools for land use to protect and enhance community heritage values and established neighbourhoods.
Oak Bay has 28 houses designated heritage, 11 in a neighbourhood that area residents hope will become Oak Bay’s first HCA.
“If this project is a success, it does lay the groundwork for completing some heritage work that is lasting,” Green said.
It would mean hiring a heritage consultant with the expertise to develop the HCA process.
“Volunteers can only do so much. Our role is to promote, educate and advocate,” Green said.
Boosting numbers on the heritage registry, with the Registration/Designation Committee lead by Joan Heagle, is another goal.
“That’s a big priority,” Green said. “We only have about 29 homes on the register. “We’re behind on our numbers.”
People continue to fear heritage registry and designation brings loss of control over the property, or lowered value.
“Neither is the case,” Green said adding, a good start would be to pursue a historic inventory listed in Stuart Stark’s Oak Bay’s Heritage Buildings: More than just Bricks and Boards (available at the Oak Bay branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library).
“We know it’s important, we know the community wants it, but we have to get our heads around it. A lot of damage can occur in one election term.”