Beloved 122-year-old stone wall in Oak Bay demolished by developer

This is a stone wall dating from 1897, when it surrounded the house of Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper.

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VICTORIA — Workers with jackhammers punched holes in a 122-year-old heritage wall in a quiet Oak Bay neighborhood on Thursday, in defiance of a stop-work order from the municipality.


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A small crowd gathered on the property and Oak Bay police were called. But work continued on the wall and officers were eventually called.

“We were hoping to preserve the wall for 200 years or more,” said nearby resident Ken Grant, watching the jackhammers at work. “We failed.”

This is a stone wall dating from 1897, when it surrounded the home of Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper, a federal politician and son of Sir Charles Tupper, one of the Fathers of Confederation. The wall is listed on the Oak Bay Community Heritage Register, but is not officially protected.

It faces two sides of a 1.7 acre lot at Prospect and York Squares. Mike Miller, owner of Abstract Developments, owns the land and said he plans to build a house there for his family. The company says it wants to build a single-family home.


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Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch said a stop work order was issued last week on the Prospect Place property. But the order was removed when Abstract indicated that he had no intention of working on the wall.

Murdoch said jackhammers returned on Thursday to pave the way for a planned driveway. Oak Bay attempted to respond with another stop work order, but this time Abstract said the order did not apply because no permit or approval was required to take down a wall or fence.

Oak Bay responded with a 60-day temporary protective order at 11:30 a.m. By then, the jackhammers were done. Abstract said he would comply.

Murdoch said he was disappointed with the developer’s behavior, even though it was legally correct.

“This stop work order accurately reflected the intent of the community,” Murdoch said. “I don’t think it will be welcomed by the community to see a stop work order ignored.”


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The Prospect Place property has been controversial for several years. The municipality and residents are discussing whether the property could be part of a heritage conservation area to protect features such as the wall.

City councilors gave three readings to a heritage control period by-law for the ward. A fourth is scheduled for October 28. After the Heritage Control Period Regulations are enacted, a developer will need to apply for a Heritage Alteration Permit to alter the wall.

Miller was unavailable for comment on Thursday, but an executive summary released a statement saying the work was done in anticipation of the settlement.

“Abstract began work (Thursday) to protect the company’s existing rights to the property as the District of Oak Bay is expected to implement a heritage control period bylaw in the Prospect neighborhood. by the end of the month,” said an emailed statement.

Murdoch said a heritage alteration permit would have only taken Abstract a few more weeks and any resulting work would have taken place with less controversy.

“(A heritage alteration permit) does not preclude owners from having rights,” Murdoch said. “So an aisle access like that, I anticipate they would always have been allowed to do that. But if the process had been allowed the openings would have been a bit smaller as they removed a few more rocks and I would expect it would have been less controversial.



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