Abstract staff were seen on site at 1561 York Pl. while neighbours looked on in anger at the demolition of a 122-year-old-wall. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Greater Victoria developer rushes to demolish historic wall before Oak Bay applies heritage permit

Abstract Development punches holes in one of Oak Bay’s oldest stone walls

The District of Oak Bay’s council conducted an emergency meeting on Thursday morning in order to issue a Temporary Protection Order for the property at 1561 York Pl.

Starting at 7 a.m. that morning, executive staff members from Abstract Development took jackhammers, crowbars and shovels to a historic 122-year-old stone wall, while angry neighbours watched.

The demolition took place under a posted Stop Work Order tacked onto a nearby tree, but Abstract staff on site pointed out that the order only said the company had to cease anything which required permits, while all they were doing was “landscaping.”

The Stop Work Order was put in place last Friday after Oak Bay council agreed to apply a Heritage Conservation Permit (HCP) bylaw on the property, which would require property owners to seek a permit from the District before making any changes to heritage components, such as the wall. The HCP bylaw received its third reading on Monday, and was scheduled for final approval in council on Oct. 28.

Knowing that time was limited, Abstract got to work on widening two existing openings along the frontages on York and Prospect Place, and adding two new openings on Prospect Place.

ALSO READ: Oak Bay heritage property to spawn a new lot

“Abstract commenced the work today in order to protect the company’s existing rights to the property, as 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,” said Adam Cooper, director of development for Abstract in a statement.

The land was purchased by Abstract CEO Michael Miller for personal development, and was once a part of the historic Annendale property, which was built by Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper, second son of Sir Charles Tupper, the last Father of Confederation in 1897. Neighbouring Miller’s lot is the heritage-designated Annendale House. The walls surrounding the property were also built in 1897, as was a derelict carriage house which Miller recently sold to a Victoria resident.

A photo from 1911 shows a Margaret Scott and her brother, Walter in front of the property at 1561 York Pl. (Courtesy of the Oak Bay Archives and the Brian Crane Collection)

READ MORE: Historic Oak Bay carriage house to be restored as rental property

The property also houses an archaeologicially significant midden, a refuse pile created by historical First Nations.

A natural resource officer on-site determined that the midden was being protected, and that the wall did not hold archaeoloical value.

Regardless, the move left many neighbours appalled including Paul Ziakin, who lives next door and was evicted by Abstract from his current residence.

“I’m seeing a development company finding loopholes in the law to carry on the work,” Ziakin said. “I’m surprised that this company is just moving ahead like this… They’re just burning bridges behind them and making themselves more of a pariah to this neighbourhood.

READ MORE: Oak Bay grants 60 days of protection for century-old mansion

Angus Matthews, a neighbour and member of a local commission which met with Miller 21 times to come up with a development alternative, was also present.

“They’re tearing down one of the most historic walls in south Oak Bay,” Matthews said. “They raced out here with their management team and their toy tools and inflicted as much damage on the wall as they can before the next protection period… When people associate the Abstract brand with this they should remember this is spiteful heritage destruction, not community development.”

Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch and council held an emergency meeting and unanimously voted to impose a 60-day Temporary Protection Order, which Murdoch issued himself at the property around 11:30 a.m.

“Staff recognized immediately that this was contrary to the intentions of council,” Murdoch said, adding that council realized that legally a Stop Work Order is to be applied to a building, not a wall or fence.

“No matter the legalities, I think the intentions of the Stop Work Order were pretty clear, so we were disappointed that the spirit of it wasn’t recognized by the developer.”

Murdoch further added that a Heritage Conservation Permit is not being put in place to stop an owner from renovating their property, but rather to make sure more thought is put into the process.

As of 11:30 a.m., Abstract staff stopped tearing down the wall, though a majority of its aim was accomplished.

Abstract said it is now consulting the legal merits of the protection order.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

Like us on Facebook Send a Tweet to @NicoleCrescenzi
and follow us on Instagram

Just Posted

School strike: SD63 says grade 12 students ‘will not lose their graduation year’

Parents, students concerned about educational impact of CUPE 441 strike

Population growth on West Shore strains wait lists for family services

Funding not keeping pace with demand at Pacific Family Services Association

Cineplex to show free holiday movies to support Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada

Community Day will be on Dec. 7 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m at select theatres

West Shore RCMP arrest man accused in Port Renfrew theft, Duncan fraud

Man charged after $300 in fraudulent charges, two phones and wallet stolen

Monster Truck Chaos comes to Victoria, tickets on sale Friday

Monster Truck Chaos rumbles into Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre Jan. 25 and 26

‘We love you, Alex!’: Trebek gets choked up by ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant’s answer

The emotional moment came in Monday’s episode when Trebek read Dhruv Gaur’s final answer

POLL: Do you support CUPE workers in their dispute with School District 63?

SD63 schools to remain closed as strike continues Tuesday

Judge rejects Terrace man’s claim that someone else downloaded child porn on his phone

Marcus John Paquette argued that other people had used his phone, including his ex-wife

Petition for free hospital parking presented to MP Jody Wilson-Raybould

What started as a B.C. campaign became a national issue, organizer said

Petition to ‘bring back Don Cherry’ goes viral after immigrant poppy rant

Cherry was fired from his co-hosting role for the Coach’s Corner segment on Nov. 11.

Greater Victoria 2019 holiday craft fair roundup

Get a jump on your holiday shopping

B.C.’s high gasoline prices still a mystery, Premier John Horgan says

NDP plans legislation this month, seeks action from Justin Trudeau

Group walking on thin ice at B.C. lake sparks warning from RCMP

At least seven people were spotted on Joffre Lakes, although the ice is not thick enough to be walked on

One dead after fiery crash in Duncan

A man has died after a fiery motor vehicle collision Monday night,… Continue reading

Most Read