Moncton house a developer wants to demolish may end up with heritage designation instead
Owner constructing six-storey apartment building beside house constructed in 1898-99
Moncton is considering adding a downtown house built in the late 1800s to the city's heritage list after its owner applied to demolish it.
Councillors voted unanimously Monday in favour of first reading of a bylaw to add 84-86 Highfield St. to the city's heritage list. The municipal Heritage Conservation Board and staff recommended adding the property, known as Killam House, to the list.
Coun. Paulette Thériault, who chairs the conservation board, said there have already been too many buildings with historic value lost in the city.
"We can't afford to lose any more," Thériault said.
The two-storey was constructed in 1898-1899 and was originally occupied by Amasa Emerson Killam, according to a report to city council. Killam was a surveyor and bridge inspector for the Intercolonial Railway and the report describes him as one of Moncton's wealthiest residents in the late 1800s.
The property was added to the Canadian Register of Historic Places based on a 2005 vote by Moncton council, but had not been added to the municipal list. The federal registry calls it a example of well-preserved Queen Anne architecture featuring a "witch's cap" turret with gable dormers.
Ashford Living Inc. owns the property and adjacent land where it is constructing a six storey apartment building.
The company originally sought to demolish Killam House for the apartment building's parking lot. It withdrew the application and altered its plans for the apartment building after city staff raised the property's heritage value.
The city's planning advisory committee and council each granted approval to the altered plans. Construction began over the summer.
Patrick Gillespie, president of The Ashford Group of companies, told councillors that once construction started, it became clear the plan wouldn't work as intended.
He said keeping the house meant driveways to underground parking and surface parking both go onto Elm Street. The underground entrance dips down and turns 90 degrees, something he said makes entry harder.
He also said large moving trucks would likely need to park on the street.
"Even though the architect said it works, it doesn't work," Gillespie said.
The company in August applied for another demolition permit, triggering a formal heritage review of Killam House and a decision by the Heritage Conservation Board. The board instead recommended council add the house to the heritage list.
Gillespie said the company is spending $11 million on the apartment building and asked council for leeway.
"If we keep the house, we're going to keep one hand tied behind our back for 40, 50, 60 years it's going to have its useful life," Gillespie said before the vote.
He said it's a nice house, but council should ensure properties it wants protected are properly designated so the rules don't change while plans are already in progress.
Thériault said she hopes the city works with the company to preserve the building. Thériault linked the issue to concerns with the environment by saying too much construction waste ends up in landfills when some materials can be reused.
Bill Budd, the city's director of urban planning, said staff will work with the company on ways to preserve the property.
He suggested that could include using a city program that provides financial incentives for preserving heritage properties.
"There's no question that this property is probably in bad repair, it will take a lot of work to bring it back into productive use," Budd said.
Coun. Charles Léger, who chairs the city's planning advisory committee, said the committee and council should've been informed by staff of the earlier application for a demolition permit.
He said the planning committee was pleased the company wouldn't demolish Killam House. Léger suggested the company withdrew its first demolition permit to ease approval of the apartment.
Gillespie told CBC after the meeting that Leger's comments were unfair, saying the company worked in good faith with the city.
A public hearing on the bylaw to add the house to the heritage list is scheduled for Nov. 16.