Heritage Property Maintenance Standards

Designated heritage properties are significant properties protected by bylaw to ensure their long-term preservation. Designating a heritage resource however does not in itself ensure a property’s preservation, as it contains no mechanism to require its continued maintenance. Given that all heritage resources are susceptible to change, the absence of enforcement options leaves designated properties at risk of deterioration, vacancy and neglect.

To address maintenance concerns for protected heritage resources, a local government is authorized, under Section 616 of the Local Government Act, to establish minimum maintenance requirements for property that is designated or located within a heritage conservation area. As a companion tool to heritage designation, Heritage Maintenance Standards ensure that designated properties are conserved by setting minimum requirements for their care and maintenance. Although Heritage Property Maintenance Standards, enacted in the form of a bylaw, exist in most cities and municipalities in the province that have designated sites or areas, the Township does not currently have such a bylaw in place.

At the recommendation of the Heritage Advisory Committee, Township Council is currently considering a Heritage Property Maintenance Standards Bylaw.  Heritage Property Maintenance Standards are intended to:

  • Communicate the minimum expectations regarding the maintenance of legally protected heritage property
  • Ensure that designated heritage sites are maintained and do not deteriorate through neglect

Typical bylaw provisions pertain to keeping buildings weatherproofed, protecting them from infestations, maintaining their structural integrity, and managing drainage, vegetation and extended periods of disuse. Should an owner of protected heritage property require assistance for exterior repairs and maintenance, financial support is available through the Township’s Heritage Building Incentive Program.

The Township has a long and demonstrated commitment to heritage resource protection through municipal designation going back to the 1970s.  The proposed bylaw provides the authority for the municipality to act in those rare circumstances when these valuable heritage properties, some of which have been designated for decades, are at risk.

For several years, the Heritage Advisory Committee has had discussions regarding how heritage properties can be better managed, following the loss of recognized historic buildings to disrepair.  The purpose of the proposed standards is to slow deterioration and prevent the loss of heritage assets, while addressing the life safety risks associated with misuse.

Recent collapse of one of the earliest remaining settlement buildings built in 1885 in the Township after decades of disrepair

The proposed Heritage Maintenance Standards Bylaw has been developed as an initiative of the Heritage Advisory Committee, whose mandate is to advise on matters related to heritage conservation.  The proposed standards, prepared through extensive consultation, are consistent with the goals and objectives of the Township’s Sustainability Charter with respect to sustaining and celebrating the Township’s heritage resources, and the current implementation of the Township’s Heritage Strategy, undertaken with ongoing advice from the Heritage Advisory Committee, which stresses the need for both the preservation and protection of municipal heritage assets.

Heritage designation is a form of land use regulation that provides long-term legal protection for a property, a portion of a property, or a number of properties. Heritage property is designated on a voluntary basis through agreement between the municipality and an owner, or on the initiative of Council. Currently there are twenty-seven individually designated properties under both public and private ownership throughout the Township, with several pending as part of current development application processes.

Similarly, the designation of heritage conservation areas provides long-term legal protection for a distinct area with special heritage value or heritage character within an official community plan. There are presently two heritage conservation areas in the Township in Fort Langley and in Murrayville, which together encompass forty-one properties that have been recognized or protected for their heritage value.

Maps showing the boundaries of the heritage conservation areas can be found in these community plans.

The act of designating a heritage resource by bylaw does not in itself ensure protection for that resource, as it contains no mechanism to manage it in a manner that contributes to its long-term preservation. Unlike a Heritage Revitalization Agreement, heritage designation does not include a conservation plan or maintenance strategy. Provincial legislation recognizes this limitation by providing local governments the authority to establish minimum standards for the maintenance of designated sites and areas.

Given that all heritage resources are vulnerable to change, the lack of enforcement options for protected heritage property that is subject to a heritage designation bylaw, or is within a heritage conservation area, are at risk of deterioration, vacancy and neglect.

Proper maintenance is recognized as the most cost effective method of extending the life of a building, and the survival of historic buildings in good condition is primarily a matter of regular upkeep. The most minimal maintenance can aid in protecting all the components of a building against deterioration through keeping water out of a building, which is the single most destructive element for a heritage building; reducing the impact of weather, including sun, wind, frost and snow; and preventing damage by insects and vermin. The effort and expense expended on simple maintenance not only leads to a higher degree of preservation, but over time potentially saves large amounts of money that may otherwise be used for later upgrades.

Minimum maintenance standards outlined in the proposed bylaw focus largely on five key areas:

  • Keeping a building dry
  • Reducing the impact of weather
  • Preventing infestation
  • Maintaining structural integrity
  • Managing a property that is not in use

Typically, buildings and structures deteriorate quickly when these areas remain unaddressed, presenting major challenges for long-term conservation.

The bylaw applies to buildings that are defined as “protected heritage property” under the bylaw.

For the purposes of the proposed bylaw, “protected heritage property” means property that is:

  • subject to a heritage designation bylaw
  • scheduled as protected under a heritage conservation area
  • subject to a heritage designation bylaw, heritage revitalization agreement, or heritage conservation covenant and located within a heritage conservation area
  • recognized on the Township’s Community Heritage Register or Heritage Inventory and located within a heritage conservation area.

Only those properties defined as “protected heritage property” are subject to all of the provisions of the proposed bylaw.

Other properties within a heritage conservation area remain subject to existing community standards instruments, such as the Abandoned Properties Bylaw, the Graffiti Bylaw and the Untidy and Unsightly Premises Bylaw, as may be revised from time to time, with one exception. Should a property owner choose to cover over windows within a heritage conservation area, as one of several options available for securing a vacant property, the proposed bylaw would require that clear board be used in place of other materials. Beyond this minor provision, the proposed bylaw does not affect properties that are not “protected heritage property” within the Township’s heritage conservation areas.

No, the proposed bylaw cannot compel an owner to improve a property beyond the minimum standards outlined in the bylaw.

For further information contact the Community Development Division at 604-533-6152.

Related Links