White Rock's Elm Street is home to some of the city's oldest houses.

COLUMN: Developing a city beyond its past

There is no better example of what White Rock once was than the homes and vintage apartment building in West Beach.

The H-word is raising its ugly head in Surrey and White Rock again.

Politicians, developers and real-estate agents are hoping its use will soon decline so they can continue to give the green light to destruction of the few remaining reminders of the past that get in the way of growth.

The H-word, of course, is “heritage” – in particular heritage buildings. They are a nuisance to growth-oriented cities like Surrey and White Rock because they often sit on more land than a contemporary building does. In addition, the taxes they bring in are low.

Perhaps most gratingly, they get in the way of development plans and tie up planning departments, taking them away from the massive developments that allow cities to sprawl and mayors to beat their chests about how important their cities are.

An excellent story by Cloverdale Reporter editor Jennifer Lang details how Surrey basically ignores its own heritage register and heritage advisory commission.

The latest example is the Neville C. Curtis house on 182 Street in Cloverdale. The heritage advisory commission asked planning staff for a 60-day protection order, after a request was made for a demolition permit.

In March, Surrey Coun. Dave Woods said there was nothing the city could do because the home was privately owned. In other words, the heritage register is meaningless.

There were at one time many potential heritage homes on that street. One, the Currie house, was actually moved by the city at great expense. It languished on blocks for several years, until the city finally demolished it. In that case, the city was the owner – but couldn’t bother to preserve the home.

A similar fate overtook the Orange Hall, which was built in the 1891, moved by the city, and torn down last year after languishing for 22 years.

Only one home on 182 Street has a chance of withstanding the current drive to build massive homes. The Cecil Heppell house at 5818 182 St. is formally protected by a Heritage Revitalization Agreement. This is the city’s main tool for preservation, but is almost never used unless the owner consents.

Cloverdale, given that it was Surrey’s first small town, has been particularly hit hard by this official attitude towards the past. Not all of its heritage buildings can be saved, but some should be.

The same skittishness towards the past is also on display in White Rock.

There is no better example of what White Rock once was than the homes and vintage apartment building on the east side of Elm Street in West Beach.

Until recently, these homes were in immaculate condition, and walking down the street was an opportunity to glimpse back to the days when White Rock was primarily a summer resort town.

Now, one home has a sign in front with photos of a “plan” for a new home on the lot. The one next to it is for sale. Unquestionably, the others are threatened as well, as is the small apartment block.

Lorraine Ellenwood’s book Years of Promise, White Rock 1858-1958 states that “Elm has the distinction of being White Rock’s oldest inhabited street (other than Marine).” It details when the five cottages were built – between 1910 and 1913 – and states that the apartment block sits on the site of a home built by customs officer Alex Smith and later lived in by the Merklin and J.E. Gardiner families.

Most of the homes built in White Rock’s early days are long gone. Given the property values, it is understandable why.

However, Elm Street offers a unique look into the earlier, less hectic days. City council and heritage organizations should work together to somehow preserve that short stretch of streetscape.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News, as well as at frankbucholtz.blogspot.ca

frank.bucholtz@gmail.com

Just Posted

White Rock to ‘embark on a new direction’ for city’s management

Dan Bottrill has been the city’s chief administrative officer since 2012

‘Slight’ arsenic increase noted in White Rock water: city

Challenges in plant commissioning cited, testing underway

Coastal FC Walking Soccer program takes first steps

South Surrey recreation program held weekly at BMO Coastal Soccer Centre

Event set to light up White Rock’s Memorial Park

Inaugural Festival of Lights will launch on Dec. 6

Advocates push for high-speed rail connecting Vancouver to Seattle, Portland

The bullet train idea could cost an estimated $50 billion

‘We love you, Alex!’: Trebek gets choked up by ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant’s answer

The emotional moment came in Monday’s episode when Trebek read Dhruv Gaur’s final answer

Judge rejects Terrace man’s claim that someone else downloaded child porn on his phone

Marcus John Paquette argued that other people had used his phone, including his ex-wife

Petition for free hospital parking presented to MP Jody Wilson-Raybould

What started as a B.C. campaign became a national issue, organizer said

Bargaining to resume in Metro Vancouver transit strike as bus driver overtime ban looms

Both sides might be headed back to the table to prevent new overtime ban

Petition to ‘bring back Don Cherry’ goes viral after immigrant poppy rant

Cherry was fired from his co-hosting role for the Coach’s Corner segment on Nov. 11.

B.C.’s high gasoline prices still a mystery, Premier John Horgan says

NDP plans legislation this month, seeks action from Justin Trudeau

Group walking on thin ice at B.C. lake sparks warning from RCMP

At least seven people were spotted on Joffre Lakes, although the ice is not thick enough to be walked on

VIDEO: Don Cherry says he was fired, not sorry for ‘Coach’s Corner’ poppy rant

Cherry denies he was singling out visible minorities with his comments

B.C. teacher suspended for incessantly messaging student, writing friendship letter

Female teacher pursued Grade 12 student for friendship even after being rebuked

Most Read

l -->