Old house

This home in the historic Abbott Street area of Kelowna had stood for 113 years before it was demolised several months ago. Now, the owners want city permission to build two new homes on the site, in a process heritage advocates say represents the increasing development pressures on the distinctive neighborhood.

Kelowna heritage advocates hope city council will block plans for two new homes in one of the city's oldest neighbourhoods.

The proposal, and the way the application has been handled, illustrates the increasing development pressures on the Abbott Street Conservation Area, critics say.

"It's time to start a new chapter in true heritage conservation in this city," says Valerie Hallford, who has long championed the retention and renovation of the many century-old homes on and around Abbott Street south of downtown.

If current trends aren't addressed, Hallford and other heritage advocates warn, the Abbott Street area - with dozens of properties on the city's heritage list - will increasingly be made up of homes that may appear old in style but which lack any architectural authenticity.

They note the distinctive area, with its eclectic and appealing array of old home styles, is recommended as one of the city's 'Must See' areas by Tourism Kelowna.

"What will there be to see if genuine heritage houses continue to be either irrevocably changed or demolished?" Hallford says. "We do not need Kettle Valley North between Highway 97 and KGH, and Pandosy Street to the lake."

At issue for city council at a meeting next Tuesday is a rezoning proposal to create two lots out of a property at 409 Park Ave. A home built in 1907 used to occupy the site, but the owners, saying the house was in bad shape, received a demolition permit earlier this year from the city.

Heritage advocates contend the home was not beyond repair and could have been renovated in much the same way as other properties in the Abbott Street area.

Now, the owners intend to build two homes on the vacant site, and city planners endorse their rezoning request.

Since Abbott Street is a city conservation area, new building plans have to be reviewed by the heritage advisory committee, municipal staff note in a report to council, to ensure the development "maintains the residential and historical character" of the neighbourhood and fits in with the area's "sense of place".

But the property owner's rezoning request is also opposed by the Friends of the Abbott Street Heritage Conservation Area and the Kelowna South Central Association of Neighbourhoods.

"The owners bought a registered heritage home (in 2018) knowing it was in the Abbott Street Heritage Conservation Area, had it taken off the Heritage Register, had it demolished, and now want to have property rezoned (to) subdivide it," the two groups say in a joint news release.

"The rezoning to smaller lots and subsequent subdivision of these properties will spell the death knell for the Abbott Street Heritage Conservation Area, as our heritage homes will disappear," the two groups say.

"Council's approval of this application for rezoning will set a precedent to tear down more of our heritage homes in order to subdivide the lots for further development," the groups say.

City council will consider the matter at a 6 p.m. meeting on Aug. 11. Because a rezoning is being requested, interested members of the community can address council.