Information regarding the rock wall modifications at York/Prospect Place
For Immediate Release
Victoria BC – Thursday, October 17th, 2019
This morning at roughly 7am, work began to penetrate the rock wall surrounding the property at 1561 York Place. The purpose of this work was to widen two existing openings along the frontages on York and Prospect Place, as well as add two new openings on Prospect Place. At the time that work commenced, no municipal approvals or permits were required in order to modify the rock wall.
Owned by Abstract CEO, Mike Miller as a personal property, the company has previously completed work at the York Place site; organizing the successful relocation of the Annandale Carriage House last month, which was relocated from the property to be restored and used as a legal garden suite in Vic West. Throughout the process the company and Miller worked with provincial and municipal entities to ensure the work onsite was compliant after middens were discovered on the site in August.
In advance of commencing work to modify the wall, a representative from Abstract contacted both the Provincial Heritage Conservation Branch, as well as their consulting archeological firm, Terra Archaeology; the organization to ensure that any work was completed in an archeologically sensitive manner and would not be in breach of any Provincial regulations. Abstract also contacted the BC Archeology Branch further to advise them that the company would be undertaking additional work on the wall under the close guidance of consulting archaeologist, Terra.
Work commenced onsite earlier today in order to protect the owner’s existing rights to the property. It is anticipated that the District of Oak Bay will be implementing a Heritage Control Period bylaw in the Prospect neighbourhood by the end of the month; the 4th reading and adoption of this bylaw is anticipated to take place on October 28th.
A 60-day Temporary Protection Order was implemented by Oak Bay at roughly 11:30am this morning, which Abstract is currently complying with. The company has stopped work at the site while it reviews the legal merits of the protection order.
Abstract has long expressed interest in developing the York Place property, exploring multiple redevelopment concepts since first acquiring the land in 2016;
- In 2017 a building permit was approved for one single family home to be built on the property.
- Later that year, a 4 lot subdivision and rezoning application was submitted to the District of Oak Bay, with no confirmed plans for the relocation of the carriage house and to designate the rock walls along both Prospect Place and York Place, with allowances for new driveway crossings which are required to service the proposed lots, per the bylaw.
- In August of 2018 the subdivision application was cancelled. A Heritage Revitalization Agreement application was submitted to the District shortly thereafter, as it was a more appropriate tool to deal with the historic features of the site, particularly in light of the neighbourhood’s ongoing effort to develop a Heritage Conservation Area. This change also facilitated the engagement of one of British Columbia’s leading heritage experts – Donald Luxton – to support the application with expert advice and guidance.
- In December of 2018 the proposal was not supported by Heritage Commission; at which point the proposal went to Committee of the Whole. Council asked for Abstract to come back with a new submission that was more sensitive to the site’s historical features, topography and environmentally sensitive areas.
- Over the three months following, Abstract worked in earnest with the neighbourhood to create a new concept plan to develop an 8 lot subdivision that would protect the heritage features on the site and ensure that all of the new homes constructed were in keeping with the character of the neighbourhood. However, after completing a broad public engagement process with residents, they did not find support for the revised concept, and it became clear that the parties involved would not be able to reach a consensus.
- In February of this year, Abstract decided to abandon its plans to subdivide the property in favour of building one single-family home on the site, in response to feedback from the neighbourhood.
“We understand and appreciate the concerns voiced by neighbours today regarding the work that commenced this morning to modify portions of the rock walls at 1561 York Place. Over the last 3 years, Abstract has been actively working with various community stakeholders to try and find a compromise that would satisfy the competing interests of municipality, neighbours and the property owner – without success. This morning a difficult decision was made by our team to take immediate, and rapid steps to modify the rock walls; an act that was completely within our legal rights at the time that work commenced on the site. We are empathetic to the public’s interest in maintaining this wall in its current form; at the same time, we saw the need to respond to protect the existing property owner rights, which would be substantially changed by the establishment of a Heritage Control Period and ultimately a Heritage Conservation Area.” said Director of Development, Adam Cooper.
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