Collective’s rights should overrule individuals’ on Oak Bay heritage

Heritage significance is a matter for the community to decide

Re: Beauty is in the eye of the individual beholder (Letters, Feb. 14)

While the writer is attempting (I think) to protect individual property rights and freedom of expression, as well as protest against any initiative to legislate taste, it is my opinion he is missing the point on heritage preservation.

To follow the points in his letter, individual property rights don’t override collective rights. There must be a balance between the two.

The community as a whole also has rights to certain standards and restrictions. Oak Bay’s official community plan, for example, calls for maintaining the low-profile image of buildings and to preserve the large old homes that contribute to the physical character of the community. It is not fair therefore to rail on council for trying to do what’s in the community’s best interests.

Preserving Oak Bay’s history and architecture is also a noble cause and shouldn’t be discouraged. The point about vintages and styles constantly changing is also inaccurate, because we should have noticed by now the profit motive has entered the picture in a big way.

We see many overdeveloped lots, monster homes with limited garden space, condominiums so small they need special miniature furniture, new homes made out of pressboard and eighth-inch stucco. Therefore I don’t see a lot of heritage competition here.

Whether the writer likes it or not, our heritage is British and many of Oak Bay’s old buildings reflect this. Heritage means inheritance; heritage preservation – under the tradition of noblesse oblige – is to act selflessly and honourably for the community good.

I have seen many beautiful, old well-built buildings demolished to make way for high-profit developments, but I can’t imagine sterile and bland will overtake embellished and ornate anytime soon.

Anthony Mears

Oak Bay