The old home at 785 Island Rd. is coming down as the developer was unable to find a feasible business case to save it. (Black Press Media File Photo)

With no takers to move old Oak Bay home, teardown begins

'We tried a last hurrah,' developer says

The 1912-built home at 785 Island Rd. is coming down after the costs were deemed too high to work out a Heritage Revitalization Agreement that would have saved it.

A last-minute attempt by concerned locals offering the home free of charge to anyone willing to move it couldn’t find a taker.

“It doesn’t make sense for the [developer],” says Ken Johnson, president of the Hallmark Heritage Society. “In the end, we need more development and density and this was a way to get it without destroying the old house.”

Owner Dusty Delain of Amity Construction originally applied for a Heritage Revitalization Agreement to retain the house and subdivide the 11,440-square-foot, L-shaped lot that backs on to Plumer Street.

READ ALSO: Oak Bay council places 60-day protection order on Island Road house

READ MORE: Oak Bay council split over forcing heritage designation on Island Road home

That proposal left the original house untouched while adding a house accessed from Plumer (a new driveway would have accessed the century-old home from Island Road). Delain withdrew the application, however, when Oak Bay asked for service upgrades estimated at more than $400,000. Delain and Oak Bay were unable to find a compromise that would make sense to pursue the HRA, Delain said.

Instead, he applied to demolish the old house and replace it. The application was flagged by staff who suggested council consider putting a 60-day protection order on the house. Council did, but ultimately chose not to impose a heritage registry.

At that point the application to demolish the old house and build a new one was allowed to proceed and is currently in the works. A late movement stirred local interest, but no one came forth willing to move the house.

READ MORE: Another old home leaves Oak Bay by boat

“We tried a last hurrah there,” Delain said. “It would have been sweet at the end of the day to have someone purchase it and move it, but no.”

Delain said he was quoted about $40,000 to $50,000 to move it to the nearest beach access and float it on a barge, avoiding the costly hassle of temporarily moving powerlines and traffic lights. Barged Oak Bay homes often go to Gulf Islands but also end up in the Cowichan Valley or even Campbell River. Otherwise, the costs of moving old homes around Victoria, especially two-storey homes, is too high.

“We offered to put the $15,000 demolition costs towards the moving costs for anyone who wanted to take it,” Delain said.

The deadline for someone to take the house was Monday as Amity’s crew was otherwise in the final steps to prepare the house and lot and secure the demolition permit.

READ ALSO: Mixed-use density proposed for Oak Bay Avenue

“People reached out with their concerns, and we tried to accommodate them and respond to them, even if it’s not what they wanted to hear,” Delain said. “What we’re learning is everyone has as suggestion and point of view, as they should. But when it comes to funds to contribute… no one came forward.”

If it’s a consolation, locals have had a chance to salvage parts from the house, Delain said.

“Neighbours have requested some of the stained glass, doors, door handles, and other vintage things. The double-hung windows will be removed and the [red] front door is spoken for by a longtime neighbour.”

Amity bought the building and lot in January 2018 for $1.4 million. Originally built as a single-storey bungalow in 1912, it was renovated in 1919 to add a second storey and alter the roof.

“I sympathize with him in some respects,” Johnson said. “It is a raw deal from Oak Bay that they haven’t helped him subdivide the lot. That’s the issue he’s facing. He bought the land hoping to subdivide but the costs were too high.”

reporter@oakbaynews.com

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