In a split-decision Oak Bay council voted 3-3 not to force a heritage designation on the 108-year-old house of 785 Island Rd.
Coun. Tara Ney recused herself from the vote for having close ties with a neighbouring landowner.
As a result, the temporary protection order that council applied on the home two months ago has now expired and the proposal can now be processed by Oak Bay planning.
The temporary protection order was applied back on July 27 when planning flagged the current application for council to review, based on the fact it would tear down the two-storey house. Planning staff told council that while the house is not on the heritage register it holds historical significance.
There were two key arguments against the move to force a heritage designation. One was from the applicant, who, in a previous application attempted to subdivide the lot (an L-shaped lot that backs on to Plumer Street) with a heritage revitalization agreement that would have registered the home. Before the application could proceed, however, the applicant withdrew it, refusing to commit to $427,000 in servicing fees.
The other argument is that Oak Bay council rarely forces a heritage designation on a house.
“It’s generally done with the owner enthusiastically in favour,” Mayor Kevin Murdoch said. “In the history of Oak Bay, there is only one house designated without the owner’s consent that I know.”
That building is the Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper house built in 1898 at 1587 York Pl. Hibbert Tupper was the second son of Sir Charles Tupper, a Father of Confederation who was Minister for Railways and Canals in Sir John A. Macdonald’s Conservative government, and 1587 York Pl. was registered for its seminal ties to Canada’s colonial history.
Murdoch also explained that the servicing fees that applicant Amity Construction declined to commit to at 785 Island Rd. can range depending on the site and needs.
Some areas where costs can escalate are when services have to be extended down a street to a new lot, especially if it requires blasting or has a large setback.
Amity bought the Craftsman-style house at 785 Island Rd. in January 2018 for $1.4 million. Originally built as a single-storey bungalow in 1912, it was renovated in 1919 to add a second storey and alter the roof in the Craftsman – plenty of ornate detail remains.
“I’d love to see the owner adapt that house in a way to keep it, or reopen the revitalization HRA but at this point it’s up to them,” Murdoch said.
Couns. Hazel Braithwaite, Cairine Green and Eric Zhelka voted in favour of enforcing the heritage designation while the mayor and Couns. Andrew Appleton and Esther Paterson voted against enforcing a designation.