Fight to save historic Stittsville barn headed to court

The City of Ottawa is taking Richcraft Homes to court, alleging the builder has neglected to make necessary repairs to an historic barn city's west end.

City of Ottawa alleges Richcraft Homes has failed to maintain Bradley-Craig barn

Heritage advocates want the 145-year-old barn on the Bradley-Craig farm to be maintained at its current location on Hazeldean Road. (CBC)

The City of Ottawa is taking Richcraft Homes to court, alleging the builder has neglected to make necessary repairs to a historic barn in the city's west end.

Two years ago Richcraft got permission from city council to deconstruct the 145-year-old Bradley-Craig barn in Stittsville and reassemble it at Saunders Farm, an agricultural tourism site in Munster. The developer plans to build box stores in its place.

But the plan, which sparked fury among some heritage advocates, appears to have fallen through. The permit granted by the city expires on Jan. 28, and Saunders Farm says it hasn't heard from the builder.

Now those same advocates fear the towering red barn is being left to fall into ruin.

Builder failed to make repairs, city claims

The city is taking Richcraft to court over allegations the builder failed to make necessary repairs to the old barn.
The city has taken Richcraft Homes, the owner of the property, to court over concerns the historic building hasn't been maintained. (CBC)

The city filed a property standards order on March 10, 2017, but it was never followed, according to an emailed statement from Stuart Huxley, senior legal counsel for the city.

A charge issued under the Ontario Building Code Act is currently before the Ontario Court of Justice

Heritage Ottawa's David Flemming said the situation is a prime example of how the city lacks the teeth to protect heritage buildings from becoming derelict through neglect.

"There's no incentive," Flemming said.

Fines fall short

Flemming said whatever fines the city can levy often fall well short of the actual cost of repairs.

"That's one of the things Heritage Ottawa is pushing for, to make it sting if [developers] do things like that," he said.

The Bradley-Craig barn is one of several vacant buildings monitored as part of a watch list that was launched by the mayor's task force on vacant buildings.

"It has been inspected by property standards and there have been orders issued to ensure that the property is secured and maintained," said Sally Coutts, a senior heritage planner for the city.

Coutts said the city can perform necessary work to the building and charge the owner for the repairs.

Barn tells area's story

Marguerite Evans, a descendant of the family that built the barn, said the structure is significant for its architecture, but more importantly, it tells a story about the area. 

The Hazeldean Road landmark stands sentry over one of the last standing farmsteads in an area that was once dominated by agriculture.
Marguerite Evans is a descendant of the Bradley family that built the barn in 1873. (CBC)

Evans, who fought the original relocation of the barn two years ago, said she would like to see the building re-purposed, but fears its days could be numbered.

"I have lot of concerns because I suspect that it has deteriorated," Evans said. 

Richcraft still has 12 days to submit a plan to the city, then to carefully deconstruct and rebuild the barn in a new location, but that's unlikely to happen within such a short timeframe.

Richcraft refused to comment to questions from the CBC about its plans for the barn.

The builder has hired a lawyer to fight the city's assertion that the property hasn't been maintained. The next court date is Feb. 22.