To the editor:
On the City of Kelowna webpage for Heritage I found this: “We value, respect and celebrate built, cultural and natural heritage as a major contributor to our community’s identity, character and sense of place”.
I noticed that the word “protect” isn’t anywhere to be seen. The sentiment expressed is encouraging but I’ve noticed that it doesn’t seem to be shared by many of the people undertaking new building projects in the designated Heritage Area in South Kelowna.
Like Vancouver, Heritage homes are disappearing rapidly along with tall, old trees (which seem to have no protection whatsoever). If a building is not a registered Heritage building (a process that only requires the owner to apply for the designation) then there is no way to protect the building from a new owner who bought it but doesn’t actually want the house or the trees, just the land.
When a house in this Heritage Area is advertised for sale, the older homes are celebrated along with the mature landscaping – which I assume means old trees. Unfortunately this doesn’t stop builders and owners from destroying both. The owners of the Mills house on the lake is a recent example. A beautiful, very large, lakefront heritage home went straight into the landfill. The owner said it wasn’t a heritage home because it wasn’t on the registry. Until we decide to protect what we value the destruction will continue.
I have a large oak tree on my property but I have never considered it as exclusively mine. It was there before I was born and was one of the reasons I bought the house. It’s part of the common good. The city’s desire to densify this area seems destined to destroy it. I thought I understood the reasons for this – to avoid building high rise apartments and to increase residential opportunities within walking distance from the downtown to encourage other forms of mobility) – but it now appears clear that the high rises are coming anyway, with their attendant social effects : crime, isolation and increased traffic.
And many of the new homes being built in South Kelowna are just bigger buildings for the same number of people. Do we care? Is this what we want?