Oak Bay starts 2017 perusing its priorities and a proposed heritage conservation area for its oldest neighbourhood is among the ranks.
Residents from Prospect Place, York Place, Beach Drive, San Carlos and a small segment of Oak Bay Avenue showed force as they filled the gallery at municipal hall for the Dec. 5 committee meeting where resident Michael Prince pitched the HCA.
Prince asked council to retain a heritage consultant and have staff move ahead on an HCA. They agreed to put the project over for consideration in the priorities plan.
The area is home to 11 of the 28 heritage designated houses in Oak Bay and residents hope to protect elements ranging from history and architecture to landscape and viewscapes. Prince outlined the plan to create an HCA in the neighbourhood. (See the proposal at oakbay.ca on the agenda for Dec. 5).
“The time is now – we are at a pivotal point,” Prince said. “We think we all benefit, the entire community.”
Municipal and regional governments can create a Heritage Conservation Area that establishes regulatory guidelines and may list individual properties for protection. They protect ambience, landscaping and small historical touches. Council, sitting as committee Monday night, agreed to consider it during their priorities deliberations early in the new year.
Coun. Kevin Murdoch was careful to clarify this was simply moving the process along, not setting any HCA guidelines.
“Of course the devil’s in the details in what parameters… there’s some good standards out there but we will do a whole process that takes the neighbourhood into account,” Murdoch said.
He noted the proposed HCA supports official community plan priorities, has support from the community Heritage Foundation and Heritage Commission and has strong resident support.
“It seems pretty simple,” Murdoch said. “We have no option but to deal with this application. The next step of going to priorities is logical.”
“This is feeling a bit fait accompli but of course we have process to move forward,” agreed Coun. Eric Zhelka.
The proposal already has strong support, about 80 per cent of area residents.
“It can’t happen with only one or two people. It can only happen with the kind of support you’ve been able to galvanize with your neighbours,” said Coun. Tara Ney.
She asked why others were not professing support.
Others are undecided, unable to support it publicly or property owners they haven’t been in contact with.
Municipal staff anticipate cost for the process could range from $50,000 to $75,000 and would be a new item added to the financial plan.
Ney sees that as another investment in heritage, which they fund through their foundation and commission. She says this kind of a project could increase community awareness and set a precedent.
“This project, it seems to me, will accelerate the heritage agenda,” Ney said. “It’s a healthy chunk of change, but it’s money well spent. … It’s possible there will be other projects in the future. As a whole it will serve to spotlight what heritage means in the community.”
Council expects to whittle down its priorities list during the first meeting of 2017 on Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. at municipal hall, 2167 Oak Bay Ave.