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Central Saanich embarks upon heritage designation for Brentwood chapel

Owner wants to deconstruct church, but potential partner Brentwood College has other priorities
Central Saanich council is moving ahead with plans to attach heritage designation to the Brentwood Anglican Chapel building at 788 Sea Drive. (Black Press Media file photo)

The historic Brentwood Anglican Chapel building at 788 Sea Dr. could end up receiving heritage status against the wishes of its owner.

According to the “best of staff’s knowledge,” it would be the first time Central Saanich designated a building in such a case, council heard June 28.

Council voted 4-3 in favour of starting the process, with Mayor Ryan Windsor and Couns. Carl Jensen and Bob Thompson opposed.

“You have to be engaged with an owner and this is not the direction I want to go,” said Jensen. “This is not in the best interest of the property.”

The public, however, also heard arguments in favour of preservation.

“It’s a pretty profound piece of architecture, one that also has a great history for Brentwood Bay,” said Coun. Graham Newton, adding later, “It would be a shame to see this leave.”

Back in April council placed the historic church under temporary protection after receiving a demolition permit application from owner David Mackenzie.

The 1926-built chapel was the lone survivor of a 1947 fire that destroyed the campus of Brentwood College, which now operates in Mill Bay, directly opposite the chapel across Saanich Inlet.

While staff had recommended against launching a heritage designation process, it is due to start later this month.

Mackenzie opposes designation, telling councillors he has no use for the building. He plans to apply for a residential rezoning of the lot and make a charitable contribution towards a cairn commemorating the church.

RELATED: Central Saanich temporarily saves historic chapel from demolition

These moves come after a consultant had assessed the building as per council’s temporary protection order. While the assessment found the church to be of “high heritage significance” and deserving of being on a heritage register, it wasn’t entirely in support of designation.

Plans call for the ‘unbuilding’ of the chapel — also known as deconstruction — as part of a donation by Mackenzie to the school. There are possible, but no immediate plans to reuse or rebuild the church in Mill Bay.

“The (school) has made it a priority to act now, deconstructing and preserving what remains of the Chapel, before time steals back this historical piece and it decays into the ground,” reads a presentation. Council heard that money has been set aside money to be used by the school, but a Brentwood College representative said other projects will take priority.

The heritage designation process takes 60 days. Council had earlier instructed staff to explore firmer commitments about re-purposing or re-building the chapel with staff also asked to explore possible future uses of the chapel. Coun. Niall Paltiel hopes both sides can reach an agreement that satisfies all aspects of the issue.

ALSO READ: Oak Bay heritage projects earn 2021 Hallmark honours

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