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Oak Bay’s first heritage conservation area is in the books

Councillor excited to see how HCA protects character of The Prospect
The proposed Prospect Heritage Conservation Area boundaries. The dashed line identifies Glenlyon Norfolk School campus with its three heritage designated buildings on the original Rattenbury estate. ( The Prospect neighbourhood is officially Oak Bay’s first Heritage Conservation Area. (

Following Oak Bay council’s meeting on Monday night a group of residents from the Prospect neighbourhood took to the Penny Farthing for a celebration.

Some of them have known each other a long time. Others have grown close since they came together to develop Oak Bay’s first Heritage Conservation Area in August of 2016. Council made the final approval in a unanimous vote on Monday.

READ MORE: Public meetings underway for proposed heritage area in Oak Bay neighbourhood

After the pub they all made the short walk back to their homes.

Michael Prince and Karen Wallace-Prince, in 2017, when they proposed Oak Bay develop a Heritage Conservation Area to protect the Prospect neigbhourhood. (Black Press Media File)

Except for the bylaw nothing in Oak Bay had really changed. And that’s the point.

The true effect of The Prospect heritage conservation area is it will preserve the charm and character of what was built in the early 1900s, mostly by architects Frances Rattenbury and John Gerhard Tiarks. There are about 50 homes in total, including three Rattenbury buildings on the Glenlyon Norfolk school campus.

The bylaw applies to the exterior of homes and structures over 10 square metres, and to a series of landscape and yard features such as non-permeable pavement and rock walls.

Michael Prince, a Prospect resident who brought a lot of energy to the HCA working group, believes it is unlikely to have any effect on the current housing crisis as it will take years for another HCA to be created. s

“The next stage is to make sure it’s implemented in an effective way,” Prince said. “It’s as much about the public realm as it is the private property, it really puts some new responsibilities on the district staff, engineering, public works to [learn the bylaw process].”

The bylaw applies to the exterior of homes and structures over 10 square metres, and to a series of landscape and yard features such as non-permeable pavement and rock walls.

Therefore, single-family homes could still be converted to into multi-unit rentals such as 1558 Beach Drive without the HCA interfering. Rather, it’s about the ornate detail of the homes, and the protection of rock walls and gravel driveways, that the HCA is meant for.

READ ALSO: Oak Bay closer to first heritage conservation area

“We’ve been contacted casually over the last few years about what we’ve been doing,” said Prince, who has lived in his 1908-built home for 30 years with partner Karen.

Though the City of Victoria has 13 of the province’s 60 designated heritage conservation areas, he doesn’t see another HCA popping up soon in Oak Bay.

“It’s been hard work and it’s not a fast process,” Prince said. “It might be faster the second time around, it’s not a template, there’s no cookie-cutter process.”

Theoretically, a derelict house in an HCA could still be razed pending advisory panel and council approval, though none in The Prospect currently fit that description.

But like Prince, Coun. Hazel Braithwaite said that there are many places that could be the next HCA in Oak Bay, if the neighbours are willing to get together and do the work. Otherwise, it will likely be a long time before another HCA shows up, she said.

“It will be hard to find another group putting in this amount of time and effort, but it would be interesting to see if another group can come together,” Braithwaite said. “The greatest thing is how that community came together, people who didn’t know each other, renters and owners, are all fast friends now. It formed a camaraderie.”

In addition to the current council Braithwaite and Prince acknowledged the previous mayor Nils Jensen’s support of the HCA. Jensen, who died in April 2019, visited the Prince household in the summer of 2016.

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