Former Simpson home comes off Kelowna’s heritage registry

Council votes to remove it after learning about several major alterations and additions to the Abbott Street property over the years.

Kelowna city council has agreed to a request from the owner of an Abbott Street house to remove the building from the city’s heritage registry.

The property, which once was home to Kelowna Sawmill Co. owner Stanley Merriam Simpson, was placed on the registry because of its connection to the late local pioneer businessman.

Simpson once owned much of the land that now makes up the downtown core  and sold a large tract of land to the city in the late 1940s. That land now house, City Hall, Memorial Arena and Jim Stuart Park.

City staff said although the original house was built in 1921, it has had a number of large and significant renovations and additions made to it over more than 60 years.

The current owner, who is not related to the Simpson family, has been trying to have the property removed from the heritage registry for several years, according to the city planning department.

A letter from the owner’s lawyer said with a heritage designation, insurance for the property is more expensive. But city officials pointed out the house does not have a heritage designation, it is simply on the registry. And that’s a key difference because inclusion on the registry does not afford the building any special protection, it merely indicates a historic significance—in this case as the former Simpson home. Heritage designation on the hand, would protect it from substantial changes or demolition.

While some members of council felt the building should stay on the registry because of its connection to the legendary Kelowna businessman, the majority, lead by Coun. Luke Stack, felt its history is well known and keeping records and photographs  is good enough.

Currently there are just 15 city properties with heritage designation — and thus protected—and there are 212 properties listed on Kelowna’s heritage registry.

Stack and the other councillors who supported the staff recommendation to remove the property from the registry notes the lack of protection the registry affords any property included on it.

In the end just three nine members of council, Robert Hobson, Gerry Zimmermann and Mohini Singh, voted to keep the Abbott Street house on the registry.