Protecting Heritage

The Rationale and Principles of Heritage in Oak Bay

The community of Oak Bay displays its rich heritage in its homes and neighbourhoods, and its sites and historic structures. Preservation and enhancement of Oak Bay heritage is one of the building blocks for a healthy and sustainable community. By preserving the character of Oak Bay, long time residents feel a sense of belonging, and new residents are attracted to the area.

While Oak Bay has already established goals and objectives for the community, the principles that follow are meant to specifically guide future direction for heritage preservation.

  1. Incorporating preservation into community planning processes;
  2. Educating residents and visitors about Oak Bay’s history and heritage;
  3. Encouraging community involvement around heritage issues;
  4. Preserving and maintaining heritage resources, where possible;
  5. Ensuring new development is compatible with the existing community.

An important outcome of heritage preservation is to retain the historic features and materials that are unique to the Oak Bay community, and to protect the natural and built heritage of neighborhoods that have helped shaped the architectural, environmental and social history of Oak Bay.

Heritage sites may be recognized and protected by:

  • Inclusion in the Oak Bay Community Heritage Register and/or
  • Designation as a Heritage Site.
  • Heritage Revitalization Agreements, Covenants and Heritage Conservation Areas

Oak Bay Community Heritage Register

The Oak Bay Community Heritage Register is an official list of buildings and sites deemed of heritage value or character, as adopted by resolution of the Municipal Council. Inclusion of a property on the Heritage Register is voluntary. It does not offer heritage protection, nor is it a formal designation. If a site as deemed to be significant, Oak Bay Council may trigger a protection process. Buildings listed on the Heritage Register are incorporated into the Heritage Building Inventory. View the Oak Bay Heritage Register, or visit the Oak Bay Municipal Hall. An inventory of some of Oak Bay's most significant buildings can be found in Stark, Stuart. Oak Bay's Heritage Buildings:More than just Bricks and Boards.

Interested in including your property on the Heritage Register?

Heritage Designation

Heritage designation is a method of conserving property. The effect of a formal heritage designation is to preserve the key features of a building and/or land that give it a distinctive heritage character. A property owner may apply to have a site designated as heritage. Properties are evaluated according to a list of criteria for assessing heritage merit. A building is formally designated as a municipal heritage site by bylaw adopted under heritage provisions of the British Columbia Local Government Act, thus assuring that a heritage legacy remains for present and future generations.

Heritage Restoration Grants

Administered by the  Oak Bay Heritage Foundation to provide cost-sharing grants to owners of buildings listed on the official Oak Bay Community Heritage Register and to owners of designated heritage buildings. Buildings protected under a Heritage Revitalization Agreement may also be eligible for the Heritage Restoration Grants programme.

For further information, download this PDF:

Alternatives to Demolition

The home or property owner may have a building that needs major repair in order to be habitable or significant renovation to bring it up to current living standards, building codes, or municipal guidelines.  Often this results in a  difficult dilemma of chosing between restoration and upgrading, or simply starting over. While the easiest route, financially and technically, may be outright demolition and new construction, other options are available. These options provide viable alternatives, both financially and aesthetically. The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada describes the various alternative approaches and the standards for their adoption. There are three main conservation approaches to protecting heritage value:

  • Preservation - protecting, maintaining and stabilizing the existing form, material and integrity of a historic place
  • Rehabilitation- sensitive adaptation of a historic place for a continuing or compatible contemporary use
  • Restoration - revealing, recovering or representing the state of a historic place as it appeared at a particular period in its history, as accurately as possible

Each choice is appropriate for different circumstances and has a different set of standards. This publication lists 9 standards, all of which must be applied in cases of preservation, three more apply to rehabilitation and two more apply to restoration. The 9 Preservation standards specify, amongst other things:

  • Conserving heritage value
  • Conserving changes to a place that have become character defining
  • Minimal intervention
  • Recognizing historic place as a physical record of its time, place and use.
  • Maintaining character-defining elements on an ongoing basis (see Statements of Significance in the Heritage Register binder at Reception Area Oak Bay Municipal Hall)
  • Making any intervention compatible with the historic place
  • Documenting any intervention.

Rehabilitation is considered appropriate when repair or replacement of deteriorated features is necessary, alterations are planned for new or continued use, and its depiction during a particular period is not appropriate.

Restoration can be considered as a primary treatment when the significance of a historic place during a particular period in its history significantly outweighs the potential loss of existing materials, features and spaces from other periods, where substantial physical and documentary evidence exists to carry out the work and where contemporary alterations or additions are not planned.

It is worth noting that many of the older houses in Oak Bay are larger than the current bylaw allows and consequently represent value in their current state that would be lost if the house was demolished. Before taking any irrevocable steps towards demolition, property owners should carefully assess and weight all the ramifications, both pro and con.

Oak Bay Municipality has several tools at its disposal to assist the community and property owners in maintaining heritage value, including site and home designation, grants for repair, sources of practical information and revitalization agreements. These are addressed in the papers to follow. Owners also have the option of relocating a home when it no longer meets the owners’ living requirements. As a last resort, homeowners who still wish to demolish their properties are encouraged to recycle much of the original, but still usable parts (flooring, fireplaces, etc.), to minimize debris destined for the landfill.

A heritage designation should not be considered a devaluation of property values, as recent evidence supports the view that resale value is enhanced.

Alterations and Demolition Permits for Older Homes
Researching Your Older Oak Bay Home