WorkSafeBC issues stop work order on fire-damaged heritage home before it even begins

Heritage home at 3737 Angus Dr. damaged in arson last October

The saga continues for a fire-damaged heritage home in First Shaughnessy.

Work was about to start recently on the mansion at 3737 Angus Dr. that was significantly damaged in a fire last October. The fire was deemed an arson. However, WorkSafeBC issued a stop work order Aug. 24 following an inspection that determined the structure is an “immediate danger to life and health” and “may also contain hazardous material(s), which could pose a health risk to workers/persons at or near the workplace.”

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“The homeowners retained us earlier this summer to coordinate the extensive repairs and restoration work on the badly damaged home, in accordance with the city’s heritage bylaws,” Troy Van Vliet, principal of Tavan Developments Ltd., said in an email.

He said that last week, shortly before work was set to begin, the company advised WorkSafeBC of the work and invited investigators to inspect the site for “possible safety considerations and concerns.”

According to the inspection report, WorkSafeBC inspectors visited the site on Aug. 20 and 21. The stop work order was posted at the site at 4 p.m. on Aug. 24. The order includes the condition that work not proceed until a demolition plan is developed to address the risks and the plan is reviewed by WorkSafeBC.

3737 Angus Drive
WorkSafeBC Aug. 24 issued a stop work order before work could begin on the fire-damaged heritage home at 3737 Angus Dr. Photo Jennifer Gauthier

A City of Vancouver spokesperson told the Courier Monday that the city was not aware of any work being carried out at the property because there are no permit applications on file for the address.

The home was damaged in a suspicious fire last October and since it’s in the Heritage Conservation Area it is a protected heritage property and is subject to the Heritage Property Standards and Maintenance bylaw. The city examined the home on Oct. 27, 2017, noting the roof was extensively damaged but the lower level openings were all boarded up and perimeter fencing and 24-hour security was in place.

The city previously told the Courier a structural engineer representing the property owner determined the building, which was assessed at $14.2 million as of July 1, 2017, could be salvaged following a site visit in late October — an assessment that was supported by a city district building inspector.

On Nov. 1, the city ordered the owner to install a protective covering over the building to minimize weather and water damage.

Since then, the owners, Miao Fei Pan and Wen Huan Yang, asked for extensions, stating that the extent and nature of the damage requires selective demolition of the damaged sections, which will require more time to complete to address WorkSafeBC requirements due to structural and material hazards.

A protective covering has yet be installed.

Earlier this summer, the city launched legal action against the owners.

In June, the City of Vancouver prosecutor's office approved charges under the city's Heritage Property Standards of Maintenance Bylaw alleging that the owners failed to repair and maintain all buildings, structures and features at the property “to reasonably prevent or retard damage” and failed to comply with the original order directing that the home be maintained to prevent further damage.

A conviction could result in a court-imposed fine of up to $10,000, according to the city.

The city went a step further last month filing a petition in B.C. Supreme Court asking for a mandatory order forcing the owners to comply with the bylaw and pay for the costs associated with the proceedings.

Built in 1910, the house was designed by architects Samuel Maclure and Cecil Fox, and built by contractors Coffin and McLennan. 

A statement of significance produced by heritage consultant Elana Zysblat said that the arts and crafts-style home, known as the Frank W Rounsefell Residence, is important for "how it illustrates the establishment of Shaughnessy Heights as the exclusive Vancouver neighbourhood developed by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1907 between West 16th and King Edward Avenues, Arbutus and Oak Streets."

Rounsefell was a wealthy businessman and community leader in the late 19th and early 20th century. The home is also associated with Donald C. Cromie, who was publisher and owner of the Vancouver Sun newspaper between 1942 and 1964. Cromie owned and lived in the house from 1955 to 1967.

Zysblat's report notes that character-defining elements of the house include: its continuous use as a single-family residence since 1911, its prominent location on Angus Drive in First Shaughnessy, its rectangular, horizontal form in the arts-and-crafts style, and its large garden.

With files from Naoibh O’Connor


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