City approves demo despite heritage commission opposition
Despite opposition from the Community Heritage Commission (CHC), city council decided this week to allow the demolition of an 83-year-old house to proceed.
The commission felt the home at 212 Eighth Ave. was worth saving because there aren't many houses of similar style in the Glenbrook North neighbourhood. It was the first tear-down the CHC has opposed this year out of 34 demolition applications processed by the city.
However, Coun. Jaimie McEvoy, the commission chair, admitted there wasn't much the city could have done to stop the demo.
One option was to slap a 60-day reprieve on the property to see if a heritage revitalization agreement could be worked out.
"It is generally seen as ineffective if you know the developer is going to go ahead anyway," said McEvoy.
In this case, the property's owner came to the city with plans for a new home without realizing it might have some heritage value.
Another option is to force heritage protection, but a court ruling in Victoria has determined a city must compensate the owner if it takes such drastic action.
"Cities are really reluctant to use that power, and it's a role of the dice," said McEvoy. "It is frustrating and sad. We only have the powers that the province gives us. We have some enticement options, but we really don't have strong options in terms of heritage that have been given by the province. Protecting a private house is one of the toughest things under the legislation unless the owner agrees."
The city's heritage register has about 200 homes on it, with about half on the national registry, said McEvoy.
New Westminster is also one of the few municipalities that keeps track of the city's inventory of homes that are at least 50 years old, and requires its heritage commission to at least review any demolition applications, said Julie Schueck, the city's heritage planner.
She added that Burnaby's heritage commission doesn't see any demolition application unless the home is on the heritage register.
Schueck noted it appears the number of demo applications is decreasing because in 2007 there were 48 such applications compared to the 34 so far this year.