West Vancouver attempts to save 1919 heritage home

West Vancouver council is making another attempt at saving a heritage home from demolition.

Council voted Monday night to use its power under the Local Government Act to force a 60-day delay on the levelling of the 1919 McClelland House at 2918 Marine Dr. in Altamont.

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The property’s owners intend to redevelop the site with a new single-family home, but Monday’s vote buys some time so district staff can pitch the developer on a heritage revitalization agreement. Typically, such agreements grant owners permission to build more density or a second home on a lot in exchange for restoration and permanent legal protection of a building deemed to have heritage value.

Peter Miller, president of the non-profit society North Shore Heritage, urged council to pursue an HRA with the owners.

“It is a very attractive house with its simple cubic massing, simple vertical mock-tudor ‘half-timbered’ elements on the upper floor and original double-hung sash windows,” he said, listing the home’s unique features. “The interiors appear to be in immaculate condition with craftsman-style wainscoting, an elegant staircase with simple newel post and balusters, and generous built-in bookshelves.”

West Vancouver has successfully struck similar agreements to save the 1913 Vinson House, at 1425 Gordon Ave.; the 1964 Sykes Residence, at 5616 Westport Pl., and the 1927 Sutherland House at 1768 Inglewood Ave. An attempt to save Rockhaven House, the 88-year-old home at 3612 Marine Dr. failed earlier this year when the owner showed no interest. In that case, the home was badly damaged due to portions of its roof being cut out.

According to B.C. assessment rolls, the McLelland House, which was built for Georgina McClelland and her husband, a marine engineer, has been flipped three times since June 2014, climbing from a value of $3.6 million to $5.2 million in 2016. It was last assessed at just shy of $6 million, although only $143,000 of that was for the building. Real estate listings market the property as a teardown or investment opportunity.

Council should be more proactive when it comes to saving its remaining stock of heritage buildings from the bulldozers, Coun. Christine Cassidy argued, noting that, too often, the district is scrambling to come up with an HRA proposal after it’s already too late.

“Somehow or other we keep closing the barn door when the horses and the cows are long gone. Because, by the time you’re going for a demolition permit, you have psychologically and financially made up your mind,” she said.

Or, she added, the homes may be neglected to the point that saving them no longer makes any sense, as was the case with Rockhaven.

In order for the HRA to be reached, Coun. Craig Cameron warned, staff should be coming up with a proposal that makes financial sense for the owner without being too onerous or time consuming.

“That will kill any chance of it succeeding,” he said.

The district has already contacted the architect and contractor hired by the owner, both of whom showed some interest in the process, according to staff. The stay on demolition is valid only until Nov. 11.

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