The Langley Township council is looking at forcing property owners to tear down or fix up derelict and vacant homes.
Councillor Charlie Fox's motion to amend the Abandoned Properties Bylaw would set a 30-day deadline after a house is declared "uninhabitable" by police, the fire department, or Township engineers.
Fox said he has been thinking about the problem all summer.
A house near his South Langley home caught fire more than a year ago, he said. Every day he drives past the damaged and abandoned building, which has been sitting there ever since.
"There's never been an effort to put it back into a habitable condition," said Fox.
There are a number of similar fire-damaged homes, not to mention homes that are simply empty as the property changes hands and awaits development. Other houses were used as marijuana grow operations, have been damaged by the humidity and chemicals used, and have never been repaired.
The vacant homes become eyesores, and attract squatters and vandals, said Fox.
He talked about the problem outside a derelict home in Willoughby, just south of 80th Avenue on 208th Street. The home has been set on fire three times, first on two occasions in 2009, including once when occupied. Police said at the time that the building was linked to the drug trade.
The damaged shell stood for four years and caught fire again this summer, either deliberately torched or in an accidental fire by squatters. The remains are still standing behind a sign advertising that the land could be rezoned for condos and townhouses.
Fox pointed out garbage in the house's driveway, including spray paint canisters.
Some houses around Langley are occupied even while they are on lots awaiting redevelopment.
"If they have renters, then that's fine," said Fox.
While several councillors expressed support of the idea, there were some concerns around the table at Monday night's meeting.
"I just find this a little bit heavy duty," said Coun. Bob Long.
He suggested first finding out what other nearby towns do to control their vacant buildings.
The 30-day limit worried Coun.
Bev Dornan, and Coun. David Davis, although they agreed that it was worth looking at.
Most of the council supported Long's motion to have Township staff report back on proposal.
If Fox's version of the bylaw passes, it will force the owners of the property to pay for the demolition of derelict houses after 30 days, or face daily $500 fines. The Township could also demolish a house after the deadline and bill the landowner.
@ Copyright 2013