Beach home is history after heritage dispute

A home that has been the centre of a months-long battle in the Beach is no more.

“As of this morning, the little pink cottage with the turret is officially history,” wrote Geoff Teehan, the owner of 204 Beech Ave., in a June 28 blog post. “We are ecstatic and ready to move on with the build.”

Although the demolition is a victory for Teehan, the move comes as a blow to those who thought of the home as being history in another sense.

Councillor Sandra Bussin, at the request of residents, had been pushing for the home to be investigated for its heritage value.

However, in a June 22 letter to Toronto and East York Community Council, Bussin said there was no longer any point in looking to have 204 Beech Ave. designated a heritage property.

“Reasons no longer exist to report 204 Beech Avenue to the Toronto Preservation Board on designating as a heritage property because of the removal of its most significant heritage features,” Bussin wrote.

In the letter, she pointed out that Teehan obtained a building permit from the city on June 11. That permit allowed him to remove the dormers, turret and related interior alterations from the existing building, features that gave the house its heritage significance, according to the letter.

At a May 25 meeting, Bussin had asked community council to expedite a report on the heritage value of the home, a move that set off a fierce response from the owners and ignited a debate about the system of heritage preservation in the city.

In January, Geoff Teehan purchased 204 Beech Ave. in order to smash it down and build an accessible dream home designed to accommodate his wife, Melissa Teehan, who became a quadriplegic three years ago.

Despite the fact that the home had not been listed as a heritage property when the couple purchased it, neighbours who learned of the plan to demolish and rebuild complained to Bussin, who in turn obtained an architect’s report that said the home had heritage value. That led community council to begin the process of having the home designated a heritage property, a move the Teehans said would put the brakes on their dream of a fully accessible home, as well as hurt them financially.

The highly public battle, fought both online and at community meetings, has highlighted a system of heritage preservation in the city that is reactive rather than proactive, responding only when a home is about to be demolished. The understaffed heritage system has come under fire for leaving homeowners in an awkward state of limbo when they seek to alter homes that may have heritage value,
but have not been designated as such.

The battle has also been a headache for Bussin, who is up for reelection this fall. She became an object of scorn among Teehan supporters for being perceived to side with a broken system, rather than a family in difficult circumstances.

The Teehans have now said they hope to move into the new home by 2011.

About this article:

By: Joshua Freeman
Posted: Jul 19 2010 2:32 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto