Paul Ziakin has concerns about the future of housing options and affordability in his Oak Bay neighbourhood after learning he would be renovicted from his suite in a 20th century Beach Drive house. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Oak Bay grants 60 days of protection for century-old mansion

J.W. Morris House slated for removal by Abstract Developments

A group of Oak Bay residents working to prevent the demolition of another heritage home got a boost last week when councillors voted to grant a 60-day protection order.

Currently owned by Abstract Developments, the 10,000 sq. ft. J.W. Morris House was designed by architects Douglas and Percy Leonard in 1912 for $25,000. Now a multi-unit building, seven families call 1558 Beach Drive home. But on Aug. 27 tenants received notice from building manager NVision they had four months to find new homes thanks to asbestos removal and remediation. That was followed by applications to Oak Bay to remove the house, demolish its foundation and build a single-family home in its place.

Residents were offered compensation in the form of free rent or cash (dependent on length of tenancy), payment for moving expenses and assistance in finding new living arrangements.

READ ALSO: Oak Bay heritage property to spawn a new lot

The Beach Drive house has no heritage designation, but stands amongst the scenic roads and architecturally crafted homes of the proposed Heritage Conservation Area (HCA) in Oak Bay’s Prospect neighbourhood.

In a letter to council, a heritage group describes the home as “the most prominent and arguably most significant building” within the proposed HCA.

“This historic structure is an important part of the streetscape, giving an accurate ‘historic snapshot’ of our shared cultural community,” the letter reads.

The group asked council to consider adding the property to the Heritage Register and establish a protection period during the HCA policy development process. The letter came with a petition signed by more than 500 residents and community members “eager to support the retention and restoration of 1558 Beach Drive.”

On Sept. 12, Oak Bay council approved a 60-day protection order for the property.

On Sept. 12 the District of Oak Bay placed a 60-day temporary protection order on an early 20th century Beach Drive house. The house was built for J.W. Morris in 1912 and is within the proposed heritage control area being developed for District Council. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

READ ALSO: Oak Bay’s Logie Lea house designated heritage

Stephanie Long and her partner moved in more than two years ago. She calls the home “beautiful, old and basically a heritage home,” describing the structure’s distinctive exterior stone columns, stained glass and elaborate wood paneling.

“We’re sad to leave, it’s a great spot – being right on the water, the view, the neighbourhood…” she said. “The general consensus of the whole building is everyone is very upset and sad.”

Paul Ziakin has called 1558 Beach Dr. home for six years. The retiree is unsure of the future now that he has to leave his single-bedroom garden suite.

“I think there’s alternatives to tearing down a business that houses seven families, just so one person can build one house for themselves,” he said. His biggest concern is affordability and housing options, something he sees dwindling away in the community he loves. Ziakin said he’ll likely move up Island in order to find something affordable.

Staff expect to provide an updated report to Oak Bay council at its next regular meeting Sept. 30.



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

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