Proposal to split Clayburn property at centre of historic debate heads to public hearing

Opponents say building a house near century-old home would be blow to neighbourhood’s heritage

A controversial house proposed for Clayburn Village is back on track for a public hearing, despite the reservations of several Abbotsford councillors.

A local man hopes to subdivide a large property in the village and build a new home for his family, but members of the Clayburn Village Community Society argue that doing so would be a blow to the area’s historic character.

They say the large lot reflects the prestige of its original owner – the former works accountant for the Clayburn Brickworks – and that splitting the property and building a new house would diminish the stature of the modest century-old home on the site. The would-be developer, though, says the origins of the house, and its first owner, are in doubt.

Council first saw the proposal last year and voted to send it to a public hearing. But the project was stalled and eventually routed back to the city’s development advisory committee for comment. On Monday, the proposal returned to the council table, which again voted to send it to a public hearing.

But that unanimous vote came after several councillors indicated they were sympathetic to arguments that the proposal would detract from the historical value of the neighbourhood.

Couns. Patricia Ross, Dave Loewen and Bruce Banman all said they were hoping to hear more from the public, while suggesting they didn’t necessarily support the project itself.

“It might meet the … or broader OCP objectives,” Ross said. “But I’m not sure it meets the needs of this very unique and special heritage area.”

She said the placement of the new home was such that “it could very much overshadow the existing house there and change the look of the neighbourhood.”

Loewen also said the city needed to preserve the area. He said he had initially planned to vote against first reading, but would vote to move the issue to a hearing in order to hear from the public.

And Banman said the Clayburn community had been left feeling that their concerns hadn’t been heard.

The city’s development advisory committee considered the plan in May and declared itself in support of the proposal. The society had been given just a day’s notice before the issue came before the city’s development advisory committee (DAC). That left them unable to ask to speak on the topic to the committee.

“They feel like they have … been denied the ability to have any input before it gets here and, as Councillor Ross said, DAC carries a fair amount of weight with council and they feel their voice has not been heard,” Banman said.

Coun. Sandy Blue, who chairs the development advisory committee, said she also hoped to heard from the public at the future meeting. And she added that the new house’s setback was similar to that of other homes in the area.

“We have been accused of not caring about heritage here at council and that couldn’t be further from the truth,” she said.

RELATED: Can a lot have heritage value?

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