Saanich council denied a couple looking to remove and demolish a 2,400 square-foot registered heritage house at 1542 Mt. Douglas X Rd. and replace it with a contemporary 6,800 square-foot single family dwelling.
In addition to deregistering the 1913-built Edwardian style home from the Saanich heritage registry, the applicants, Gurdip and Surinder Binning, requested three variances on property lines and a roof height variance for the new building.
“This house can be saved,” said Ken Johnson, president of the Heritage Hallmark Society and a board member with Saanich Heritage Foundation. “Both organizations are diametrically opposed [to its removal]. Deconstruction is just a nice word for demolition.”
The application detailed a “deconstruction” plan for the heritage house, promising to make elements of the house available to the market.
However, council rejected the deregistration of the heritage home and setback variance requests (though the applicants did withdraw the request for a height variance) on the grounds the heritage house is not a tear-down and the new house does not conform with the neighbourhood.
In the application, the owners submitted a 2015 report by Mann Engineering that indicated a need for work on the foundation and other refurbishments. However, members of the Saanich Heritage Foundation also visited the home and found it in decent shape.
Johnson said the cost to build a house similar to the heritage dwelling would cost $200 per square foot but it could be restored for $80 per square foot.
The consensus from council and opposing neighbours is that the half-acre property is not big enough to accommodate the new home, and that the heritage home, which is lived in to this day, was purchased with no intent but to tear it down.
Nancy Lewthwaite lives across the street and was among several neighbours to point out the biggest homes along Mt. Doug X Road are less than half the size of the proposed house.
“We feel there is no hardship,” Lewthwaite said. “[Furthermore] if this huge home is built on [one side] of the property, we feel the owner will later return to have the rest of the lot developed, and two more huge homes on small lots do not fit with the character of the neighbourhood.”
According to the Saanich heritage registry, the home was built around 1913 by Arthur and Kate Meacock (née Allan) who were fruit growers that lived on Tyndall Avenue (though they only lived in the house about two years before they divorced).
Sheila Colwill, longtime member of the Saanich Heritage Foundation, said there are several options in the “foundation’s toolbox” to offer to the owner regarding saving the historical residence.
The two-storey, foursquare house features a bellcast hipped roof, a generous wraparound veranda, large square columns and demonstrates the prosperity of the Edwardian era when many farming families could afford to build grand houses.
The variances requested were for a front yard setback of 7.64 metres instead of the 15m code, rear yard setbacks of 7m on the north property line and 10.5m on the east line, variances of 5m and 1.5m, respectively, and a 30-centimetre height variance request for a section of roof.