New Brunswick

Moncton adds house to heritage registry after owner wanted to demolish it

Moncton council voted to add Killam House in downtown to the city's heritage registry after its owner sought to demolish it. Ashford Living Inc. owns the Highfield Street house constructed in 1898-99 and wanted to use the land for parking and a driveway.

Developer building apartment building beside Killam House wanted to replace it with parking, driveway

Moncton council voted Monday to add Killam House, constructed in the late 1800s, to the city's municipal heritage registry after the property owner wanted to demolish it to make way for parking and a driveway to a new six storey building. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Moncton council voted to add Killam House in downtown to the city's heritage registry after its owner sought to demolish it.

Ashford Living Inc. owns the Highfield Street house constructed in 1898-99 and wanted to use the land for parking and a driveway to an adjacent six-storey apartment building under construction.

Third reading of a bylaw to add the house to the municipal registry and protect it from demolition passed 7-1 on Monday. 

Patrick Gillespie, president of The Ashford Group, told reporters after the vote that the company will have to find a way to use the house and address its driveway concerns. 

"We're not going to demolish the house," Gillespie said.

Patrick Gillespie, president of The Ashford Group, says the company will now try to find a way to preserve the house and address its concerns with access to the apartment building under construction. (Shane Magee/CBC)

The debate touched on pressures to preserve older, often rundown, buildings in the city's core as it also seeks redevelopment and greater density.

It also looked at the fairness of seeking to make the change after the property owner had already made plans for the site. 

The house 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.

"Our city was built on the efforts and labour of many like the Killam family, for example, whose former residence is at stake this evening," Coun. Paulette Theriault, the chair of the city's heritage board, said before the vote. 

"For some, these buildings are just remnants of our past, and many have already faced the wrecking ball and our story lost along with our built heritage."

The property, along with more than 30 others, was added to the Canadian Register of Historic Places based on a 2005 vote by Moncton council. However, they weren't also added to a municipal registry. 

The federal registry calls Killam House an example of well-preserved Queen Anne architecture featuring a "witch's cap" turret with gable dormers.

A rendering of the six storey apartment building under construction beside Killam House, shown on the lower right. (Ashford Living Inc/Submitted)

Gillespie said its cedar siding and roof are rotted. Its interior had been split up when the building was converted to a rooming house years before the company purchased it. 

Gillespie said Ashford originally planned townhomes in the area. The cost of the land led to planning a larger building which required buying more properties, including Killam House.

Those plans called for demolishing the house. Gillespie said that the company opted to keep it after city staff told him it was on the federal registry.

Once construction began, Gillespie said that it became clear the design for a driveway and a ramp with a 90 degree turn to underground parking wouldn't work as intended.

He said the company expects issues with the ramp in the winter and with moving trucks accessing the building's parking lot. 

Demolishing the house would instead allow the company to revert to its original plan for a larger driveway off Highfield Street. 

Bill Budd, the city’s director of urban planning, says larger cities find ways to deal with issues around moving trucks and access to buildings. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Several councillors and Bill Budd, the city's director of design and construction, said larger cities find ways to deal with moving trucks. 

Coun. Bryan Butler voted against third reading of the bylaw, saying adding older, rundown homes to the heritage registry could result in property owners avoiding spending money to fix them.

Coun. Pierre Boudreau spoke out against adding the house to the registry because he said it wasn't procedurally fair for the property owner, but left the meeting before the final vote.

"We have failed this applicant miserably," Boudreau said. "It's the city's fault, it's the heritage board's fault for not having it designated under our bylaw, and this bylaw is getting dumped with the whole problem."

Councillors also voted to direct city staff to work with Ashford to deal with its concerns and to find ways to preserve Killam House. 

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