Not all homes are for heritage

Letter writer says you can't expect all owners of old houses to hold on to their properties.

Editor, The News:

Re: Heritage to the curb (Letters, Nov. 15).

Recently Claus Andrup lamented that in Maple Ridge heritage is being “tossed to the curb.”

For me, a building is an artifact. Yes, something that will be tossed away when its usefulness comes to an end, like a pair of old shoes.

I am always glad to see a well-maintained older building – whether it is of historical significance or not.

But you can’t expect all owners of old houses to hold on to their properties.

Some may find upgrading and repairing an old house a bad investment.

Others, even those who prefer living in an older house, often don’t have the means for proper restoration and upkeep.

Sooner or later, the house goes down.

That is the nature of things.

In the past, an angel with deep pockets came to the rescue of the buildings managed by the Maple Ridge Historical Society.

That will not happen with the remnants of old Port Haney.

These are different times.

The voters prefer the money to go to fun and games, and heritage is not part of that.

The fortunes of our heritage buildings are and have always been in the hands of the owners.

The owner can keep or restore the house’s original character or morph it into something completely different.

It is entirely up to the owner to neglect or demolish a building.

To promote preservation, Maple Ridge created a register of heritage sites.

About 30 owners registered their properties, promising that they would not demolish their houses before calling the district and giving them a chance to find a solution to save the building.

There is also an elite list of 10 properties in Maple Ridge – most of those owned by the municipality.

These are the so-called designated heritage sites.

Protection of those buildings is put down in bylaws.

That this protection does not always work as can be seen at a former school building.

The restrictions on modifying the building have not stopped the present owners from changing the exterior of the building.

Former pupils don’t even recognize their old school. They think it is a new building.

Heritage lost.

Clearly, protection of the old buildings in Maple Ridge is “minimal,” but does enforced protection serve a purpose?

Should the owner of an old building be punished for modifying, neglecting or even destroying his property for the sake of its historical significance?

If heritage designation dictates what the owner can and cannot do with his property, the owner may face a loss in the value of the property.

That would be a reason for owners of old buildings to fight rather than embrace heritage designation.

The future of our built heritage is entirely in the hands of the individual owners, and that will not change.

We, as a community interested in the preservation of our past, could and should help individual owners to preserve the historical value of their property.

In a number of cases, incentives toward restoration, free expert advice, and free history research could add to the worth of the property for the owner.

This program should be restricted to buildings with true historical value as assessed by experts.

Fred Braches

Maple Ridge

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