The Dixon barn today, post-restoration.

New rules in Langley after heritage buildings crumble

After losing two heritage structures, Township council has voted for maintenance requirements.

Heritage building owners in Langley Township will now have a responsibility to maintain their structures, rather than simply being banned from knocking them down.

On Monday, June 11, Township council gave three readings to a Heritage Property Maintenance Standards Bylaw that establishes minimum requirements for the care and maintenance of designated heritage properties.

There are currently 27 significant public and private properties in Langley Township, and two areas – Fort Langley and Murrayville – that have heritage designation, which provides for their long-term legal protection.

However, up to now there has been no tangible way of ensuring that they are cared for and not simply left to deteriorate.

That fate destroyed the historic Noel Booth Store and Gas Station in Fernridge in recent years, as the buildings simply decayed through lack of maintenance.

Earlier this year, a residence constructed in Milner in 1885 – among one of the oldest remaining buildings in the Township – was found to have deteriorated into an unsalvageable heap. It had been left unattended for 40 years and finally collapsed into total ruin.

The Heritage Property Maintenance Standards Bylaw was put forward to council by the Township’s Heritage Advisory Committee, as part of its 2018 work plan.

Minimum maintenance requirements for properties that are designated or located within a heritage conservation area can be established under the Local Government Act, and many other municipalities and cities throughout BC already have such bylaws in place.

The bylaw requires that the buildings be weatherproofed and kept free from infestation and vegetation overgrowth.

Owners can apply for financial support to assist with the costs of maintaining heritage buildings through a Township grant, which is offered three times a year. The next call for applications to the Heritage Building Incentive Program is August 24.

“People are exceptional when it comes to caring for heritage properties and take great pride in maintaining and restoring them,” said Mayor Jack Froese. “But sometimes, these incredibly valuable and increasingly rare gems slip through the cracks.”

“It is one thing to leave a heritage building standing, to keep it intact, but we can’t say it is being protected just because it hasn’t been torn down,” Froese said. “Age, the elements, and nature will eventually take their toll. Basic maintenance will ensure these valuable links to our past do not deteriorate through neglect and can be enjoyed by everyone for years to come.”

The Township’s new bylaw is also aimed at preventing people from getting hurt, and addressing safety issues by ensuring that the structural integrity of heritage buildings is maintained.

The bylaw will be brought forward for adoption at a future Council meeting.

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