Advocates fighting against demolition of homes near Queens Park
By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor
Maureen Arvanitidis is on a mission to save New Westminster’s heritage homes, along with The New Westminster Heritage Preservation Society, where Arvanitidis sits as president.
Arvanitidis and her society have been raising awareness in the Queens Park community for the last year-and-a-half about the increasing risks of developers moving into the neighbourhood at expense of the heritage homes.
“The feedback that we have received from the community is, we want [the heritage] retained, we don’t want new ugly buildings, particularly if they’re encroaching on other heritage properties,” said Arvanitidis to CBC.
While the New Westminster Heritage Preservation Society has been working hard for the cause, several New Westminster residents have gone to speak to the city individually.
The city suggested to Arvanitidis, the society, and others that they all collaborate to create a committee with the specific goal of opposing the developers.
The city hosted an event called “Speak up about Heritage” on November 21 and invited residents out to discuss strategies to best take care of the heritage homes. According to the New Westminster Record, those advocating for preservation contributed several strategies. One was to create a clear definition of neighbourhood character. The second strategy is creating a list of initiatives, both financial and non-financial, to encourage keeping the buildings, even if this involves some form of renovation or restoration. The third method is creating local regulations and policies that will work against those wishing to demolish heritage buildings. The last method involves spreading more information about these homes so that more residents are aware of their importance.
Julie Schueck, who works in the city as the Heritage Planner, brings attention to already existing measures that could be used to protect the homes. New Westminster’s Formal Heritage Protection lists four ways that a heritage site may be preserved: through heritage designation, a heritage revitalization agreement, a heritage conservation area, or a heritage conservation covenant. Those who wish to heavily renovate or demolish homes that fall under these agreements will have to appeal to the Community Heritage Commission and the City Council.
“If we get enough favourable responses from our consultation … then we would like to be able to put these principles and strategies and actions in front of council next month,” Schueck said to CBC, regarding taking the feedback received at Speak up about Heritage to those in the city council.
In addition to preventing the demolition of existing heritage homes, those fighting to keep heritage also hope that new developers will consider the neighbourhood landscape when developing in New Westminster.