Heritage house demolished

Once again it appears that heritage legislation has been misused to demolish a registered heritage house in the Abbott Street Heritage Conservation Area, to make way for re-zoning, subdivision, and the building of two new houses.

On February 24, 2020, Council voted in favour of removing from the Kelowna Heritage Register, the 1907/08 Groves house at 409 Park Avenue. I trust that this was done in good faith, despite being based on what can only be described as an engineering report which citizens, and their organizations in opposition to the removal, had no process by which to challenge.  "Condition" is not a valid justification for destruction of a heritage property. It was presented as being a "public safety hazard" - that the roof, which had been replaced with the help of a City Heritage Grant in 2017, might "fall-in" in a snowstorm - perhaps the following Thursday night - in March! Anyone could see from the 2019 real estate listing that this was a well-maintained house (and property), and surely the purchasers had an inspection done prior to closing.

Repair is the proper way forward, if indeed such is required for the conservation of a heritage building, not demolition. Please don't tell me that it is too expensive to do same. In 1995, I restored the adjacent 1908 Reekie house (429 Park), which was considered a "tear-down", and had had nothing really done to it since the late 1940s. I certainly did not have the financial resources the applicant appears to have. "Condition", it seems, is a matter of intent. The applicant represented that the house would be replaced by one that would be compatible with the immediately surrounding neighbourhood, and built following the Heritage Guidelines. There was certainly no mention of re-zoning, sub-division, and two houses!

A Demolition Permit was issued, and this well-maintained heritage house was destroyed on March 30, a month after Council voted on 409's removal from the Heritage Register, and prior to the approval of plans for a new house, as required. (They got around this with the "safety hazard" argument). 

Now, they are applying for re-zoning and subdivision into two RU-2 lots, although only submitting site plans and renderings for the most northerly one at this time. This appears to be a most questionable sequence of procedures to obtain a now-empty lot in the Abbott Street Heritage Conservation Area. One of the intents of the creation of ASHCA was to protect not only heritage homes, but green space, and trees as well. This development does none of these things.

The applicants should not be rewarded for their seemingly underhanded approach to achieve their goals, at the expense of the immediate neighbours, and the integrity of the Heritage Conservation Area.

I had hoped that at Monday, July 27's Council Meeting, Mayor and Council would stop this application in its tracks, which they have the power to do, and at least ameliorate the damage resulting from their misguided February 24 decision. It's time to start a new chapter in true heritage conservation in this city.

As Mayor Basran was quoted as saying on Castanet, February 26, 2020, "Under our present legislation... right now, over time, it (ASHCA) will end up a replica heritage conservation area". He seemed to be deploring this outcome. Now is the time to stop the current process, and change this legislation (which the city has the power to do). Sadly, at the July 27 council meeting, the Mayor appeared to have changed his mind, as the By-Law to allow the re-zoning to allow sub-division was moved forward to Public Hearing.

It is time for not only residents of the heritage area (as I no longer am), but Kelowna citizens in general, to oppose the direction Council has been taking us. Those who value heritage, and/or enjoy the quiet ambiance of the Abbott Street Heritage Conservation Area with its green space, lovely gardens and trees, in addition to the irreplaceable heritage and character homes, need to speak up to City Council, and the planning department, against this application, and in defense of the Conservation Area. It can be done either at the Public Hearing on August 11 at 6 PM (where even your presence counts), or by 'phone 250-469-8500 (individual councillors numbers are on the city website), or email [email protected]

Densification is the buzzword at City Hall. It is not necessary to do this in the Heritage Conservation Area, which is a tiny (.05%) of Kelowna, yet deemed by Tourism Kelowna to be in the top 5 of "Must Sees". What will there be to see if genuine heritage houses continue to be either irrevocably changed or demolished to accommodate people who want an empty lot in this beautiful area? We do not need Kettle Valley North between Hwy 97 and KGH, and Pandosy to the Lake - the Abbott Street Heritage Conservation Area.

Valerie Hallford, Kelowna 

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