Editorial: Conservation area a valuable piece of the heritage puzzle

One of the most significant challenges of municipal government is weighing the many requests for funding

One of the most significant challenges of municipal government is weighing the many requests for funding against the expectation of taxpayers that council provide value for their tax dollars.

Some, like the Uplands sewer separation and sewage treatment, are deemed “must-dos.” Others fall under the “want” category and the benefit they bring to the municipality and its residents must be weighed against the cost.

It could be argued – and some likely will – that with the various other “needs” on the agenda, this isn’t the time to invest thousands more in a Heritage Conservation Area.

But it is an investment.

Numerous residents from Oak Bay’s oldest neighbourhood – Prospect Place, York Place, Beach Drive, San Carlos and a small segment of Oak Bay Avenue – filled the gallery at municipal hall Dec. 5 as resident Michael Prince pitched the HCA to council.

“The time is now – we are at a pivotal point,” Prince said in asking council to retain a heritage consultant and move forward on an HCA. “We think we all benefit, the entire community.”

Local governments can create a Heritage Conservation Area that establishes regulatory guidelines and may list individual properties for protection. Council agreed to consider the proposal when sifting through the coming year’s budget in the new year.

The proposed HCA is in line with official community plan priorities, has support from the community Heritage Foundation and Heritage Commission and the support of about 80 per cent of area residents.

Heritage in its many forms is a significant part of what gives Oak Bay its unique character, and what draws people to live here. The $50,000 to $70,000 estimated cost of the exercise is money well-spent in the quest to preserve Oak Bay’s heritage.

The neighbourhood in question is home to 11 of the 28 heritage-designated houses in Oak Bay and residents hope to protect elements ranging from history and architecture to landscape and viewscapes.

The proposed HCA is another piece of the ongoing discussion about preserving Oak Bay’s character. It’s not the entire solution but done well, has the opportunity to lead the way in Oak Bay and the region.