More protection sought for heritage homes

A Victoria councillor is calling for more safeguards to protect the city’s heritage-designated houses.

A Victoria councillor is calling for more safeguards to protect the city’s heritage-designated houses after city council approved the demolition of a heritage house last week.

According to city bylaws, owners must ensure an unoccupied heritage building is secure and doesn’t pose a risk to the public. But Coun. Pamela Madoff wants to look at ways to increase requirements to secure unoccupied heritage buildings, such as requiring owners to put up security fences and have regular security patrols.

“Whatever increased measures could be put in place to further secure heritage properties, if they are sitting unoccupied, is something that would be very welcomed,” Madoff said.

The call for more safeguards comes in response to council’s decision last Thursday to grant a permit to allow the demolition of the house at 902 Foul Bay Rd.

On Jan. 25, a fire ripped through the two-storey unoccupied heritage-designated home, destroying the inside of the building and the roof. The cause is still under investigation.

Large and Co. Development Company has owned the building since 2014. In the past, the company submitted a request to demolish the house, saying it was once home to roughly 100 cats and was contaminated with mould, feces and urine.

Interim senior heritage planner Steve Barber said the unsupported stone chimney is a hazard and recommended council approve the demolition.

This is the first time council has approved the demolition of a heritage house. But Madoff believes more could have been done to save the house prior to the fire.

“I think that if more effort had been concentrated on rehabilitating the building versus seeking a demolition permit, the rehabilitation of the building might have been underway and it would not have been so vulnerable,” said Madoff, adding she had hoped the owner would have rehabilitated it to single-family use.

While it’s too late for the house on Foul Bay Road, efforts have been made to preserve other heritage houses in the city.

Last month, five heritage homes were relocated from Capital Park behind the legislature.

Two heritage houses on Beach Drive will also be relocated — one to Campbell River.