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Delta deals with demolition permit for farmhouse with historical significance

There's little Delta can do to stop its heritage homes from falling into disrepair and being demolished. That's the frustration Coun.

There's little Delta can do to stop its heritage homes from falling into disrepair and being demolished.

That's the frustration Coun. Anne Peterson is feeling as the municipality deals with another demolition permit for a farmhouse of historical significance, one at prominent location where thousands drive by daily.

Peterson is a member of the Delta's heritage advisory commission that recently discussed an application to tear down the Kittson residence and barn at 9230 Ladner Trunk Rd. The home, built by farmer Robert Kittson in 1907, is listed as having high heritage value. It's on Delta's heritage inventory but not on a heritage register, which provides greater protection. Owners usually have to consent to have their homes placed on the registry.

The Kittson residence is on a 40-acre parcel recently sold by John van Dongen to a new owner planning to cover 75 per cent of the property with greenhouses.

Noting the old barn is starting to fall apart and her commission isn't opposed to its demolition, Peterson said losing the large heritage home is problematic and yet another case of "demolition by neglect."

The commission was told the cost to restore the house is estimated between $400,000 and $500,000. The cost of moving it within a 10-mile radius was estimated to be $250,000, however, an assessment determined that, structurally, the house should not be moved.

Commission members, noting the vacant home is a distinctive landmark in the community, discussed creative ways of using the building, perhaps for administration or for migrant farm worker housing.

The commission agreed incentives should be explored to encourage the owners, Bram and Jos Moerman, to renovate rather than demolish. The owners indicated they were willing to donate the building.

The commission agreed to ask Delta council to issue a 60-day temporary heritage protection order so solutions could be explored and negotiations held with the new owners of the property.

Noting federal grants have dried up, Peterson said offering zoning and planning incentives are ways municipalities can encourage the preservation of heritage homes, but ultimately it's difficult to stop an owner from tearing homes down if they're unwilling to consider alternatives.

"It's not just this house. There's a lot of barns and a lot of houses that are not being well kept and over time. If you're not keeping up a house, it will deteriorate."

Another example of an old Delta home being allowed to fall into disrepair can be seen just down the road in East Ladner, where the Friesen residence at 6721 Ladner Trunk Rd. has become an eyesore. The owner of that property wants to tear down the large white home built in the 1920s, much to the chagrin of the heritage commission.

"Do Deltans value heritage, and if so, to what extent would they go to support the preservation of Delta's heritage, whether it be in the buildings, supporting the museum and oral history or celebrating different events. How much Delta values, in terms of its past, stories and heritage and structures?" asked Peterson.

"If council feels that support and that encouragement, believe me, any loophole that we can find, we will look for in order to try to preserve these structures, even though they are on private property and, by law, we have to respect that."