The rental house slated for renovation at 1558 Beach Dr. was given an additional year of protection as Oak Bay council voted in a temporary bylaw for the entirety of the Prospect neighbourhood Heritage Conservation Area on Monday night.
This includes the 1912-built home at 1558 Beach Dr., which is already part way through a 60-day protection council placed on it in early September. Abstract Developments had purchased the home, which has seven rental units, and recently applied to Oak Bay for a demolition permit. However, plans for the building’s re-design aren’t final and the demolition permit was only made in anticipation of the coming Heritage Conservation Area designation, said Abstract spokesperson Brandon Williams. At this point, the company only knows it will repurpose the building. In the meantime they also served eviction notices in August (to most tenants), citing the need for proper asbestos removal ahead of renovations.
|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. (Oakbay.ca)|
And despite the fact some tenants have already vacated, the future of the proposed development is in question as the house falls under the new year-long Heritage Conservation Area control period, which council voted unanimously for on Monday. The temporary order offers protection equal to a heritage designation for all buildings and properties within the entire proposed Prospect Neighbourhood Heritage Conservation Area.
Abstract Developments’s director of development Adam Cooper said they understand and appreciate the Heritage Conservation Area control period and are considering other options.
“Since initially formalizing an application to develop the property at 1558 Beach Dr., we have been contacted by the District and are currently in discussion with planning staff to explore other options for the development of this property,” Cooper said. “At this point, we remain open-minded in these discussions and are cautiously optimistic about the possibility of finding an alternative to the current zoning allowances.”
Albeit it temporary the control period is a bylaw unto itself and the director of Building and Planning, Bruce Anderson, said it will take staff three or four months to bring it before council (who can then approve it in two meetings).
The council agenda on Monday included a specific item for 1558 Beach Dr., so council could consider forcing a heritage designation on the property. However, it was made redundant as 1558 Beach Dr. falls within the Prospect neighbourhood.
“The hope is that the owner will come forward with an option other than removing the building,” Mayor Kevin Murdoch said. “We can force them to [to retain the building], but for the community and landowner to get a positive outcome, you want to compromise, not use legal tools. The hope here is to find a path forward for that land and ideally that will include some rentals.”
A group of current and former tenants that represented four of the seven suites were at council, including two parties who no longer live there. Stephanie Long and her partner relocated to the Gorge. Paul Ziakin moved to Vic West.
Others, such as couple Eric Mignot and Alice Cartier, will stay until their lease runs out in May 2020, and the subsequent four-month eviction notice after that.
“We expect to get the eviction notice in May, which takes us into September,” said Eric Mignot, whose partner Alice Cartier works from their suite. “She needs to focus and it’s a quiet place. Why would we leave?”
Another tenant who attended is appealing the eviction, she said.
As Coun. Andrew Appleton said Monday night, 1558 “doesn’t conform to anything, it’s an oddball in its current form and use.”
The fact council is considering protecting rental units is an unexpected side issue and will not factor in the Heritage Conservation Area, which Oak Bay has sought to create for years. The purpose of a Heritage Conservation Area bylaw is to identify and protect houses from being torn down, and also the ambience, landscaping and other historical things such as rural lane ways and stone walls.
“It’s two different pieces, although the [evictions] triggered that the development is happening,” Murdoch added. “Basically, we want the Heritage Conservation Area to be completed before development applications come through.”
Local heritage advocates recently submitted a petition with 500 names on it and supported the 60-day protection order in place.