British Columbia

Developer temporarily halted after removing parts of historic 122-year-old wall in Oak Bay, B.C.

Oak Bay's city council held an emergency meeting to issue temporary protection order after a developer started removing parts of a heritage wall in the Greater Victoria community.

Local council held an emergency meeting to order work stopped

This 122-year-old rock wall is the subject of controversy in Oak Bay, B.C., near Victoria. (Mike Mcarthur/CBC)

The District of Oak Bay on southern Vancouver Island convened a rare emergency council meeting Thursday after a developer removed part of a historic 122-year-old rock wall.

Workers from Abstract Developments started removing parts of the rock wall surrounding its property at 1561 York Place early Thursday morning, to the consternation of nearby neighbours in the suburb of Victoria.

The work led to Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch calling for an emergency council meeting where council unanimously approved a 60-day temporary protection order for the wall. 

The wall was originally part of an estate including a one-and-one-half-storey wood bungalow built in 1897 by Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper.

Workers started removing parts of the old wall early Thursday morning. (Mike Mcarthur/CBC)

"It is a recognized heritage asset," Murdoch said. "It's one identified with particular significance for that area."

Murdoch says council was in the process of putting the area under a heritage protection plan to make sure any changes  go through a permitting process and vetting by a commission.

"Taking down a really well recognized heritage asset just to get to do it [before a] recognized process for protecting heritage is in place was not well advised," Murdoch says.

The property is set to be a single family home.

In a statement, the company said it contacted both the Provincial Heritage Conservation Branch, as well as their consulting archeological firm, Terra Archaeology, to make sure any work done to modify the wall would not be in breach of provincial regulations.

Oak Bay's city council issued this 60-day temporary stop work order Thursday. (Mike Mcarthur/CBC)

The company says it stopped work after the order was issued.

In a statement, Adam Cooper, Abstract's director of development said he was empathetic to the public's interest in maintaining the wall, but said he also wanted to exercise the owner's property rights before the heritage designation came in. 

The mayor says the heritage designation wouldn't have such a detrimental effect. 

"At worst it would delay ... by two or three weeks as an additional process went on," he said. 

With files from All Points West, CHEK


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