Heritage plan for Runnymede estate needs more work

Blair Gowie property’s future still up in the air

A petition, a demonstration and several concessions by the developer later, the future of Blair Gowie remains on the table.

The disposition of the 1916 Maclure mansion at 2031 Runnymede Ave. has been hotly debated for months in Oak Bay council chambers, after a potential purchaser came forward asking to subdivide the property.

Monday night, councillors voted 5-2 to continue working on a heritage revitalization agreement for the landmark property.

Councillors Hazel Braithwaite and Tara Ney voted against such a move.

“Basically, I believe that the design of the house and garden on that property are really, really necessary to each other,” Braithwaite said.

In February, neighbour Ewa Lupin went door-knocking and collected signatures against allowing the large property to be subdivided. In March, residents protested against the subdivision, again under Lupin’s lead.

Coun. John Herbert said Monday’s vote doesn’t mean the property will be subdivided – only that the municipality and possible buyer will keep working together on a plan.

Bruce Wilkin and partner Ann Hillyer intend to buy Blair Gowie, subdivide the land, and use proceeds from that sale to renovate the Maclure mansion.

Herbert said Wilkin has a good reputation as a contractor and would likely do good things with the property.

“The skills he has shown in completing other jobs gives me some comfort that he can repair this house,” he told the packed room.

The heritage revitalization agreement needs work, Herbert said. It must ensure the property cannot be subdivided a second time, must restrict the size and style of the proposed house.

Wilkin’s latest plans would slice off a much smaller chunk of the property – 6,500 square feet, as opposed to the 12,000 sq. ft. previously proposed. He’s also altered the design of the proposed new house.

The heritage designation of the original house and the land will have to be removed to subdivide.

However, the designations will likely be put back on both afterward, Mayor Christopher Causton said.