Saanich’s creative attempts to save old house dismissed by developers

A 71-year-old house currently listed on the heritage registry will be torn down after Saanich couldn’t convince the owners to save the home.

“I think it’s regretful,” Mayor Frank Leonard said. “I feel like we gave it all we got and we took a good look at every option available to us, but given the rights of the property owners, we ended up making the decision we did.”

That decision – approving a demolition permit – came despite the mayor indicating to the owners he was willing to make bold, one-off zoning amendments to keep the home.

In January, after learning the owners wanted the $2.4 million house at 2700 Queenswood Dr. torn down, Saanich placed a 60-day heritage protection on the home to buy time to pursue other options .

“The current intention remains to achieve a vacant lot,” Aurora Faulkner-Killam, with the law firm Cox, Taylor, legal counsel for the home owners, told council in January. “They’re prepared to listen to whatever Saanich council wishes to discuss, but they’ve been clear with their intentions.”

Trying to convince them otherwise could have meant racking up expensive legal bills or relocating the home and uprooting large trees.

“I think the community will share our dismay, but we certainly tried everything that was available under the law, other than starting to write big cheques,” Leonard said. Among options pitched to the owners was a complete renovation of the house and a subdivision of the property and rezoning to allow for two houses on one lot.

The home was put on the heritage registry in 2005 by Sheila and Byron Davies. The building was formerly owned by Sheila’s parents and had been in the family since 1944.

When contacted by the News, the Davies said they had no objections to the demolition of the home.

Rick Page, president of the Cadboro Bay Residents Association said despite the homeowners being within their legal rights to tear down a home on the heritage registry, he hopes this doesn’t set a precedent in his neighbourhood.

“We have relatively little heritage left and even though some of the houses (in Queenswood) may not be architecturally distinctive, they are an important tie to our past,” he said. “I hope this can turn into an opportunity for Saanich to strengthen their heritage regulations … or put some money behind it so (if this comes up) in the future, they’ll have some financial resources to protect our heritage.”

Leonard agrees that some changes could be made to heritage regulations to ensure at least some parts of our heritage isn’t lost.

“We requested (from the owners) photographic evidence and deconstruction to preserve as much heritage as possible,” he said, “But currently we can’t even legally require those – we just ask that it be done in good faith.”

Faulkner-Killam said this decision was in the best interest of all parties involved.

kslavin@saanichnews.com

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