Neighbours seeking to preserve status quo on Runnymede mansion

Mountjoy Avenue resident Ewa Lupin gathered signatures to help preserve the Blair Gowie heritage property in its current configuration. Disagreement over the late owner’s wishes remains.

Mountjoy Avenue resident Ewa Lupin gathered signatures to help preserve the Blair Gowie heritage property in its current configuration. Disagreement over the late owner’s wishes remains.

The late Pamela Ellis wanted to keep house and gardens intact: petitioners

Ewa Lupin doesn’t see herself as an activist.

But on a rainy Sunday last October, she walked around her Mountjoy Avenue neighbourhood with a petition in hand. When it started to rain she kept going. That afternoon she gathered 36 signatures for the petition, which asked that a proposal that would lead to a subdivision not be approved by Oak Bay council.

“There was only one person who said he wasn’t interested,” she said.

Lupin and husband Alan live next door to Blair Gowie, an Italian Renaissance home built in 1916 and designed by noted architect Samuel Maclure.

The home has had heritage designation since 1980, but Oak Bay council is considering allowing a portion of the property to be de-designated. That would enable potential buyers Bruce Wilkin and Ann Hillyer to sell a portion of the property, with proceeds going toward renovating the house. The partners have an accepted offer to purchase the property.

That doesn’t sit well with the Lupins. They’ve lived next door to Blair Gowie for 20 years and are adamant that former owner Pamela Ellis, who died June 5 last year, wanted the considerable garden left intact.

“She told us her aim was to have the house and the garden saved for future generations,” Alan Lupin said.

John Simson disagrees. He is the property manager for the Ellis estate and has represented the family for the past year at council meetings to discuss Blair Gowie’s future. He contends that in April 2010, Pamela Ellis agreed to a subdivision of the property to allow for renovation of the house.

“The application for the subdivision was made when Mrs. Ellis was alive and she was aware of it,” he said. The property was never listed for sale, he added.

The Lupins feel that was an error.

“We felt we or others should have had a chance (to purchase Blair Gowie). There are people who can take on big projects,” Alan Lupin said.

Another Oak Bay couple stepped forward late last year with an offer to purchase the property and not sub-divide. Simson said he wouldn’t be able to consider another offer until the accepted one expires.

The proposal is now in the hands of the potential developers. They are awaiting a council vote on a draft heritage revitalization agreement to be presented by municipal staff in the near future, an Oak Bay planning department spokesperson confirmed.

vmoreau@oakbaynews.com