Ideally, the next owner of the Boyd house at 985 Duchess Avenue will choose to live in this mid-century modern bungalow set modestly into the natural landscape of West Vancouver just as architect Ron Thom envisioned.
“The smaller the house, the bigger the garden.”– Peter Pratt, architect
Three previous owners know that living in this beautiful small house, deeply connected to its own peaceful, private green setting, brings quiet pleasure daily. The reality is, many mid century modern homes have already been bulldozed to make way for larger houses.
A Second Option
There is a second option for someone who wants to save this Ron Thom house, but who would welcome an incentive, such as other housing options on the same property.
The District of West Vancouver established the Community Heritage Register and a set of guidelines to support just such private heritage efforts to conserve significant homes.
“Sadly, many of Mr. Thom’s house designs have been demolished or are being threatened by redevelopment pressures. There is a very real possibility that this [Boyd] house could also be demolished to make way for a much larger house on this prime West Vancouver lot. I therefore think it is incumbent on both the architectural community and the municipal governments to do what they can to preserve the remaining work of architects of the stature and significance of Mr. Thom. …While the house is modest in size, it is an excellent example of his work.”
– Michael Geller, The Geller Group
Adjunct Professor, SFU Centre for Sustainable Community Development
The Register is a list of properties that are formally recognized by the local government for their heritage value or character.
Boyd house is already nominated to the Community Heritage Register
If Council agrees on a resolution to add the Boyd house to the Register, the property will be formally recognized for its heritage value and would be eligible for possible conservation incentives. [click here for information brochure on the Register]
Guidelines to Support Private Heritage Efforts
- Properties that are formally recognized for their heritage value via listing on West Vancouver’s Community Heritage Register are considered eligible for municipal conservation incentives.
- ‘Non-monetary’ and other ‘supportive’ incentives can be made available for conservation of privately-owned heritage properties. NOTE: Non-monetary would also include regulatory variances/and use incentives, which would be rolled into a proposed Heritage Revitalization Agreement (HRA).
- Heritage Revitalization Agreements (HRAs) will be used as the legal framework for drafting conservation agreements between the District and the owner of a heritage property, including the application of incentive tools. NOTE: As with any proposed development requiring Council approval – in this case, an HRA bylaw – there is risk and uncertainty inherent in the process, despite a common desire to encourage conservation.
- Heritage Designation bylaws will be used in tandem with HRAs to provide for ongoing legal protection of heritage resources.
What does that mean for the future owner of this house?
Owning a property that is listed on the West Vancouver Community Heritage Register does not provide any legal heritage protection for the property.
Nor does it impose any legal encumbrance on the owner. It simply formally recognizes that the house has heritage value and establishes eligibility
for possible conservation incentives if the owner chooses to explore these.
In other words, what the Register listing does do is open the door for the property owner of 985 Duchess Avenue to possible future development, such as an infill house, on the underbuilt lot.
- A listing on the Register could enable the property owner to create a development opportunity on the site (other than demolition/redevelopment under existing zoning) by initiating an HRS application (Heritage Revitalization Agreement).
- Basically, the owner agrees to legal heritage protection of the existing house (which still permits appropriate renovation/restoration). HRA are development applications, which must go through a bylaw process [see guideline 3 above].
- The tenure of a second house depends on site circumstances (e.g. topography, vehicle access etc.) and the nature of the proposal. The opportunity to create a separate title is the economic incentive for conservation – be it fee simple or strata. Form of tenure would be part of the negotiations.
A potential buyer interested in these opportunities should speak directly with the District of West Vancouver, by arrangement with Judi Whyte.