Yet another historical home is about to become history in West Vancouver.
In February, the District of West Vancouver council granted a two month, temporary protection order for the Chin residence at 1840 Orchard Way.
Staff hoped they would be able to talk to the owner about retaining the historical home, but with that time frame over, the demolition of the Chin residence is all but a certainty. Designed by W.Q Chin in the 1950s, the Chin residence is noted as a support building in the West Vancouver Survey of Architecture.
It is one among the several homes in West Vancouver that have been lost. In last October, officials were left with no choice but to grant a permit to demolish the Webb House, a heritage home on Mathers Avenue.
It was the same story for McClelland House, a heritage home that was built in 1919, in the Altamount neighbourhood and a similar fate befell to Rockhaven House in West Bay.
All these historical homes were among 171 properties listed in the West Vancouver Heritage register, which was created in 2007. The registry enables a municipality to manage its heritage by responding to applications for alterations or demolition.
More importantly, it allows the local government to offer density and other incentives to encourage private-sector conservation, typically through a quid pro quo HRA agreement.
Peter Miller, the president of North Shore Heritage Society, says they would welcome a revised procedure at the planning counter where initial enquiry about a historical property is ‘flagged’ by the district.
“By the time the home owners receive the temporary protection order, they have already invested in building or designing a new home. We want the district to make them aware and offer them the incentives the first time they approach the planners,” he said.
The owners of all properties presently listed and identified on the heritage map could also be approached with basic information and perhaps an invitation on understanding heritage agreements.
Miller says he has presented these ideas to the newly-minted Heritage Advisory Committee, and he hopes they will take those ideas to the council.
Architect and developer Michael Geller has been personally involved with two Heritage Revitalization Agreements in West Vancouver, at the Vinson House at 1425 Gordon, and at the Rush House at 1195 12th Street.
In both instances the heritage house has been moved on the lot and is being completely renovated and legally protected from future demolition or change.
In return, the municipal government approved additional density or development area to be constructed on the property, beyond that normally allowable under the existing zoning.
“While this type of project can often be as much a labour of love as a financial proposition, it can be financially worthwhile for certain types of developers,” he says.
Geller is on the West Vancouver heritage committee and says the district can play an important role in encouraging builders and developers to retain, rather than demolish heritage houses.
However, it is important to have clearly defined policies and guidelines to reduce uncertainties and create a simple approval process.
“Over time rather than avoid getting involved with heritage property, certain developers will seek them out, as has been the case in Vancouver and other municipalities,” he said.