© Guardian photo by Nigel Armstrong
A contemporary home being built on Ambrose Street is surrounded by homes bearing heritage plaques and some residents don't like the mix.
A new house at the south end of Ambrose Street in Charlottetown has raised anger and divisions over its modern design in a heritage-home block.
The contemporary home is surrounded by homes bearing heritage plaques and some residents don't like the mix. So much so that an application opposing the approval process is headed to the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission. The home however, is only a few weeks away from completion for its owners, Randy and Deann Robertson.
They built the home on a lot severed from the property formerly owned by the late Reginald and Margaret Smith.
The Smith family was descended from Isaac Smith, architect of both Province and Government houses in Charlottetown, says neighbour Ken McInnis.
McInnis lives across from what is now 5 Ambrose St. and he notes the Smith connection to emphasize the historic nature of lower Ambrose Street.
"Over the next few months we will be building a modern green home that will, in due course, blend into the eclectic neighbourhood," said the Robertsons in a letter to neighbours in the spring this year.
A letter to the editor in August said their design is insensitive to past architects and current neighbours. Another letter to the editor this week said neighbours believed the new home would be in keeping with the historic nature of the area, but were betrayed.
The area, however, is not in a heritage zone and the new owners did not need to apply for any variances so no public meeting about the development was ever needed, said Coun. Rob Lantz, who both represents the area and is chairman of the Charlottetown planning and heritage committee
A building permit was issued as a matter of right, but it can be reconsidered, so area resident Elizabeth Schoales did just that, calling the new home "architecturally disharmonious."
Lantz gave The Guardian the planning department's response to the Schoales application.
The whole area is filled with many different styles of architecture, said the report.
It added that the mix of architectural styles representing different periods of design gives this area of Brighton its character.
"The proposed design is a combination of contemporary architecture with materials that respect the character of heritage buildings," said the report. "The building is clad with wood shingles and clapboard and has a gabled roof pitch that mimics bungalow style."
MacInnis notes that there are provisions in the development bylaw to consider architectural disharmony and reject a building permit.
Lantz said the city was taken to court in 2005 on that issue and those provisions have been deemed essentially invalid.
"Personally I don't think there's anything all that unusual with this home," said Lantz.
He said that other than Schoales asking for the reconsideration this past spring, complaints didn't start to pour in until the building was almost complete in August.
"However, I should note, there are people who tell me daily that they like the home and don't understand the controversy, so it depends on your perspective," said Lantz.
"We feel we built a home that fits into this existing, wonderful neighbourhood," said Robertson. "It's not done yet so bear with us."