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Heritage supporters urge West Van to approve revitalization deal for Clegg House

The proposed heritage revitalization agreement would preserve a historic home in exchange for added density

Heritage advocates and those urging West Vancouver to build more “missing middle” housing urged West Vancouver council at a public hearing Monday to approve plans for a heritage revitalization agreement for the Clegg House property on Haywood Avenue.

The proposed heritage agreement for the property at 1591 Haywood Ave. would allow extra density – including subdividing the large lot and building another home as well as a coach house and stratified garden suite on the land – in exchange for preserving the heritage home.

Almost all of the 16 people who showed up to weigh in Monday night spoke in favour of the plan, arguing the proposal will preserve one of West Vancouver’s few remaining heritage houses while retaining neighbourhood character.

Not everyone was in favour of the plan, however. Several residents wrote to council voicing concern that the proposal would compromise the heritage value of the home while allowing the owners to subdivide the lot and add density without paying all of the usual development fees.

The 970-square-foot Craftsman style home was built in 1929 and sits on a large third-of-an-acre corner lot at the intersection of West Vancouver’s 16th Street and Haywood Avenue. The home is one of the first built in the neighbourhood, as part of a 1912 subdivision, by immigrant farmer Warren Clegg, who bought two lots for less than $900, according to historical records.

Under the proposed heritage revitalization agreement, the Clegg House would be moved south on the property to allow subdivision of the land. A new home and detached garage would then be built on the north lot while another garage with a coach house above it would be added to the south lot between the Clegg House and the new home. A stratified basement suite would also be added to the Clegg House, which would involve increasing the height of the house to accommodate nine-foot ceilings in the suite.

Originally owners Darrin and Megan DaCosta had asked for a 20-year tax holiday on the site as part of the HRA proposal. But after members of council questioned that, the owners withdrew their request.

Darrin DaCosta told council his is the fifth family to live in the house and they aren’t a “for-profit developer.… We intend to spend the rest of our lives here in West Vancouver.”

Costs of the heritage restoration and construction of the garden suite in the house will be more than $2 million, he said, adding under current zoning ”the house could just be torn down and a monster house constructed.”

“The project fits with the neighbourhood,” he said. “We believe this is the best chance the Clegg House has to be preserved.”

Susan Walker told council as the owner of a 1912 heritage home herself which she plans to move to Caulfeild, she knows that preserving heritage is “a very expensive undertaking.… These things are not done in my view for the money.”

“These do represent the few remaining heritage properties we have,” she said. “How many have been lost to the wrecking ball?”

Kyla Gardiner, president of the North Shore Heritage Preservation Society, said her group has visited the site and strongly supports the heritage revitalization plan. “It respects the neighbourhood character,” she said, adding the alternative is likely a “grossly oversized home” on the site that is “not affordable to much of the community.”

She urged council to base their decision on “what is best for the whole community” rather than neighbourhood pressure.

Susan McLeod also supported the project, saying there’s little incentive for homeowners or builders to keep historical houses.

John Mawson, a member of West Vancouver’s heritage advisory committee, said the home has heritage significance and “it’s one of a dwindling number of buildings that remain of that vintage.” He added two of the other heritage revitalizations projects – including those for the Vincent and Rush houses – have been well received.

Only one person raised concerns about the project at the public hearing, but several people wrote to council, arguing the Clegg House would become “unrecognizable” under the proposal, which they described as a rezoning proposal with substantial financial benefit to the owners.

At the meeting Monday, the most pointed questions and comments came from Coun. Christine Cassidy.

Cassidy took issue with the planting of new laurel hedge on the district boulevard just off the property and questioned plans to leave a bay window installed in the 1960s in the house.

Cassidy said she’s received a significant number of emails arguing “you’re not really restoring a heritage home” and the only reason for the HRA proposal instead of a subdivision application “is so you don’t have to pay community amenity payments.”

DaCosta took issue with those comments, saying his family was just taking advantage of financial assistance offered to owners of heritage homes. “I think it’s poor of you to make me feel bad for taking advantage of what’s on offer,” he said.

Council will vote on whether to approve the plan at the next regular council meeting Oct. 30.

An image showing an artist’s rendering of what the buildings on the property would look like under the proposed heritage revitalization agreement. | DWV