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Heritage homes preserved in West Vancouver

Ambleside Craftsman and Eagle Harbour modern home saved from development

West Vancouver has kept a couple of its long-running characters from being written out of the show.

District council voted Monday night to guarantee heritage protection for two historic character homes in exchange for allowing more development on their lots.

The 1913 Vinson House at 1425 Gordon Ave. and the 1964 Sykes Residence on 5616 Westport Pl. will be restored and protected in perpetuity.

In return, the Sykes lot will be subdivided and a new 7,280-square foot home will be built on the lower portion of the lot. The Vinson lot will be stratified into five units including new garden and laneway cottages. The Edwardian garden in the front yard will also be preserved.

Staff describe the Vinson House as an “unusually intact” Craftsman style home that provides a valuable link to the early architecture and history of West Vancouver. It was originally the home of Reeve Valient Vinson, who was elected to West Vancouver council numerous times between 1918 and 1929.

The Sykes residence was designed by West Coast Modern pioneer architect Peter Kaffka and was home to noted astronomer and educator Major Paul Sykes.

Council used a similar agreement to save the Toby House at 2055 Queens Ave. last year.

Both projects have the blessing of the North Shore Heritage Preservation Society and the West Vancouver Historical Society, although some neighbours turned out for the public hearing to raise concerns. Specifically, residents worried about the minimal parking of one space per unit at the Vinson project and that council might open the floodgates for more infill density.

But council members were almost completely on board with the two projects.

“Some people were concerned this was precedent. I think this is a great precedent,” said Coun. Nora Gambioli. “This is a very worthwhile endeavour, and I am hoping for a flood of architects and developers to do the same thing. I don’t know if our planning department can handle it but that would be my wish.”

Coun. Craig Cameron agreed, saying the only alternative will be developers buying up older character homes and knocking them down to make way for much larger houses.

“We get this type of housing that we don’t need any more of and the community is the poorer. Without incentives, no heritage is going to be protected,” he said.

Although a supporter of the heritage aspects, Coun. Michael Lewis said the infill density was reason enough to vote in favour.

“This is what we should be doing anyway. We’re running it under some heritage revitalization agreement, which, I guess it gets us where we want to be but what have we got?

Twenty houses where this might qualify as an opportunity?” he asked “We literally need hundreds of units of this sort of size to meet the demands of the changing demographics of the people in the community and people who want to age in place here.”

Mayor Michael Smith voted in favour but not before suggesting the Vinson project should have included at least one “desperately needed” two-bedroom rental unit, which could be home to a young family.

“The blunt reality is 98 per cent of the residents of West Vancouver will never see it, will never hear of it and really don’t care about it. If we’re going to rezone a lot to allow four residents there, I think there should be some community benefit as a result of it,” he said.

The lone “nay” vote was from Coun. Bill Soprovich on the Vinson project on the grounds that it was adding density to upper Ambleside without a neighbourhood planning process directing council to densify the area. He clarified though, he had no misgivings about the proposal itself.