Short-term rentals approved for West Vancouver’s Boyd House

West Vancouver council has saved a heritage home and legalized its first short-term rental in one fell swoop.

Council voted Monday night to give permanent protection to the 1956 Ron Thom-designed Boyd House at 985 Duchess Ave. in exchange for subdividing its lot and allowing the character home to be used for short-term rentals, which are otherwise not legal in the district.

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A new 2,800-square-foot home of two storeys with basement will be built immediately south of the Boyd House, on the 3,015-square-foot subdivided lot. The home will be dug into the sloped site and have a green vegetation roof.

The vote followed a public hearing in which heritage advocates and residents in favour of the project outnumbered those opposed to the project by a margin of about five to one.

The project has the blessing of the district’s heritage advisory committee as well as heritage preservation groups North Shore Heritage and the West Coast Modern League.

League founder Adele Weder said allowing short-term rentals on the property will mean it can be appreciated by a wider audience who will seek it out specifically for its architectural pedigree.

West Vancouver real-estate agent Marc Burrows said projects like the Boyd House should be encouraged as so few developers would care to keep older but architecturally significant houses at all.

“I often find myself wondering what these architects would want, if some of these guys were still around. I think they were innovators in their day they were doing things differently,” he said. “I think for some of these guys to be able to see the love and time and money that's being spent to breathe some new life into these homes while also adding dwelling to allow for two families to live in a property instead of instead of one, it's unique and I think West Vancouver needs a lot more of it.”

The only neighbour to speak against the HRA was Robert Moser, who lives in another Ron Thom home right next door. Moser said the proposal would compromise the architectural value of both properties, as well as his own yard’s privacy.

“Ron Thom houses are about two things: house and garden. There is a relationship. By severing or shall we say subdividing the property on which Boyd House sits, one greatly diminishes this careful juxtaposition of house and garden,” he said.

boyd house
An artist’s rendering shows what the properties will look like following construction of a second home.

Despite some minor quibbles, council’s vote for the heritage revitalization agreement was unanimous.

Coun. Nora Gambioli said the new house might be too big for the small lot, but she added it beats the alternative.

“If we want to support heritage structures, then this is the cost,” she said. “This is a really delicate balancing act that we keep having to do. If we do not support this application, the house will likely be demolished, and a home of maximum size will appear in its place. And I don't think that's the way to go.”

With no hotels in West Vancouver, Coun. Sharon Thompson said the introduction of short-term rentals fills a need while saving the Boyd House and adding an attractive new home, all of which she supported.

If the district is going to start allowing short-term rentals, Coun. Craig Cameron stressed the need for council to set some ground rules.

Mayor Mary-Ann Booth agreed, but said allowing them in heritage homes will give owners more incentive to keep them rather than demolish them.

“I think we're going to have to be very careful about the short-term rental in the general community. But for now, I'm happy to support this,” she said.

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