In a unique turn of events, Oak Bay council recently put a 60-day protection order on a 108-year-old house that the developer had previously tried to submit for heritage designation.
Dusty Delain of Amity Construction in Oak Bay bought the Craftsman-style house at 785 Island Rd. in January 2018 for $1.4 million. Originally built as a single-storey bungalow in 1912, it was renovated in 1919 to add a second storey and alter the roof in the Craftsman style and has plenty of ornate detail remaining.
What made the property appealing is that it’s an L-shaped lot with driveway access from the dead-end cul-de-sac of Plumer Street.
Delain applied for a heritage revitalization application to subdivide and create a new lot, for development, adjacent to Plumer. This would also add the existing home on Island Road to Oak Bay’s inventory of heritage properties.
“What came back blindsided us in the project, and put us on our toes,” Delain said. “It was exorbitant.”
|Access from Plumer Street to the driveway of 785 Island Rd. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)|
In its approval of the HRA, the District of Oak Bay expected a $427,000 bond for service upgrades that included water lines and a new fire hydrant, among other pieces, Delain said.
“It’s asking a lot having $427,000 tacked onto that development,” Delain said.
Delain and Amity Construction would be responsible for contracting the upgrades and could conceivably get the upgrades done for less than $427,000, which Oak Bay will have to sign off on. However, it’s unlikely, and even if he could shave off a good chunk of the cost, it’s still not worth it, Delain said.
Instead, Delain submitted an application for a demolition permit on the 1912 house with plan to build a new home on the lot.
“[Amity] went into that with a community approach and in that spirit, we need socio-economic diversity, and diversity period, in Oak Bay, and that project with the HRA achieved that,” Delain said. “What’s missing in Oak Bay are small lots, with smaller homes, for starter families in Oak Bay.
Before the HRA application, the house wasn’t on the radar for preservation other than being included in a Stuart Stark book of heritage homes. As pleasant as that is, Stark’s books shouldn’t be included as a key factor in the district’s rezoning process, Delain noted. However, during the stringent preparation for the heritage revitalization application, the house at 785 Island Rd. was considered and approved by Oak Bay’s Heritage Commission. Then when Delain backed out and applied for a demolition permit this year, he was surprised that before he was told no, staff prepared a report that recommended council consider a 60-day protection on the house, which council did. Only Coun. Appleton voted against, while Coun. Tara Ney recused herself. (There were also options to not apply a temporary protection order.)
“The initial costing [for servicing] was done based on [the property as] two lots,” said Deborah Jensen, manager of planning.
“There’s understandably disappointment, whenever a heritage property is lost to the community,” said Coun. Esther Paterson.
“It’s a beautiful house, I would personally not want to see it go,” said Coun. Zhelka.
However, Delain said it’s too unreasonable. With the HRA, he had a plan ready for a new, smaller lot on Plumer for an entry-level home in Oak Bay that would be available to a couple who couldn’t normally afford the area.
“Oak Bay’s new housing starts are in significant decline, one would think this is an opportunity to establish new housing while adding to the heritage stock,” Delain said.
“We could have [previously applied] to demolish the lot and build a 4,600-square-foot house,” Delain said. “It’s a big lot. We could have sold a house for $3.5 to $3.7 million, but we have enough of those in Oak Bay. So in terms of diversifying the market in Oak Bay, this is a win-win for this municipality. We wanted two lots developed, and were told the mechanism was HRA.”
Bruce Anderson, Oak Bay’s director of building and planning, noted that heritage designation is typically done with the property owner but that heritage designation can be imposed by the local government without the consent of the owner. If an owner does not consent, then the local government may be subject to compensation to the owner if it is determined there is an impact on the market value of the property as a result of the heritage designation.
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