York Place subdivision on hold

Oak Bay pressed pause on a York Place subdivision application pending heritage discussion

Coun. Kevin Murdoch

Coun. Kevin Murdoch

In the wake of a conversation on how and when to designate a house heritage, Oak Bay pressed pause on a subdivision application for a home on York Place.

Council, sitting as committee of the whole Jan. 16, opted to push the conversation to its February committee meeting.

The homeowners seek a rezoning as well as development variance permit for a two-lot subdivision at 1605 York Pl. The proposed development would rezone a portion of the property from One Family Residential Use (RS-2) to One Family Residential Use (RS-3). The site currently has one single family dwelling and a detached garage. Homeowners propose to subdivide and build a second single family home on the second lot.

The proposal would require variances for lot frontage and lot width as well as upgrades to infrastructure and protection of a number of trees, including an eagle nest tree. A development variance permit application is running concurrently with the rezoning application.

The existing home was originally designed by Francis Rattenbury and built in 1904.

“This is a historic home designed in part by Rattenbury,” said Mayor Nils Jensen, who later suggested the deferral to allow the homeowners to consider designating the home heritage.

The property owner agreed to put the house on the district’s heritage registry and pending the potential heritage conservation area proposal would look at designation. The home is in a neighbourhood under consideration for the community’s first HCA. The area is home to 11 of the 28 heritage-designated houses in Oak Bay and residents there hope to protect elements ranging from social history and architecture to landscape and viewscapes.

The registry is an opportunity to get more information on history and social history, said Coun. Kevin Murdoch, council liaison to the Heritage Commission.

“We kind of have to go through the first part first,” he said.

Jensen also noted Oak Bay is looking toward moving to a registry done by the district as opposed to the resident in the future anyway.

“I think we need the protection now. Anything can happen,” said Jensen. “The HCA may not come about.”

The homeowner pointed out the home has had renovations over the decades, and looks like one house from one side and a whole other era from the other.

In response to Coun. Eric Zhelka’s query on the potential to designate a portion of a house, council learned a designation could list a valuable heritage components to the home.

“I’m loathe to move forward without legislating designation,” Jensen said. “The best way is to work in advance.”

Coun. Hazel Braithwaite noted the homeowners, who attended the meeting, hadn’t yet been asked their thoughts.

“It’s not fair to ask that tonight,” Jensen said, suggesting it be put off to the next committee meeting.

Council agreed, with Braithwaite and Murdoch opposed.

Designation versus registry

• The Oak Bay Community Heritage Register is an official list of properties deemed to be of heritage value or character. It provides formal recognition for historic places and is a useful planning tool for other land-use planning processes in the municipality. It does not offer heritage protection, and is not a formal designation.

Heritage designation is a method of conserving places. Heritage designation is to preserve the key features of a building and/or land that give it a distinctive heritage character. In Oak Bay there are 28 heritage-designated homes and seven heritage-designated properties. Most are also listed in the Community Heritage Register.