A Langley couple are trying to talk the Township out of demolishing a 1970s-era three-bedroom rancher located on their property next to their new house so it can be used to provide inexpensive rental housing.
To date, Steve Beaton and Patty Horvath haven’t got very far.
After more than two years of wrangling, they’re now being fined every month that the 2100 sq. ft. house remains standing and a Township lawyer has warned them the municipality could tear the house down itself and bill them for the cost.
“What a waste,” Beaton said, as he guided a Times reporter through the now-unoccupied house, which is located next to his recently-completed new home on a 10.5-acre lot on 68 avenue just off 232 Street.
“I just can’t bring myself to tear it down. It doesn’t make sense to me.”
He said he has offered to pay extra in taxes if that is what it will take to keep the older house standing
The house in question has three bathrooms, two fireplaces, pitched ceilings and a spacious living room with a row of tall windows to let in the light that falls on the tall trees surrounding the structure.
Some of the house has been updated, with more a more modern colour scheme and fixtures.
Outside is a detached garage and a large pond that was home to Koi fish in the past.
The exterior paint is a bit weathered, but the house appeared to be well-maintained.
Beaton said it was built by the original owner of the 10.5 acre site, back when it was part of a larger 80-acre parcel, before it was divided into relatively smaller sites for development.
Even though its unoccupied, Beaton has kept the furnace going to prevent weather damage.
It has “good bones” Horvath said.
“It just needs a little TLC.”
In order to get a building permit for his new house, Beaton had to agree to demolish the existing house on the site.
He said he signed the papers without giving it much thought, but he has reconsidered and would like the Township to do the same.
“It’s a home,” Horvath said.
“And someone can live in the home.”
In fact, someone was, an older couple who was renting the house and took good care of the premises, according to Beaton and Horvath.
It wasn’t easy telling them they would have to move, Beaton said.
“We held off as long as we could,” he said.
“We fought for months and months (to get the Township to change its mind). “
But when a lawyer for the Township warned it could send crews on to the site to tear the house down, he said they had no choice.
A copy of a court document from a Township lawyer provided by Beaton and Horvath described the house as an “unlawful dwelling … requiring demolition” and warned that the couple must “vacate and cease all occupation and use” of the property.
If not, the Township lawyer warned the municipality could take steps “including but not limited to entering on the lands and undertaking any work necessary to bring the lands into compliance with the Township’s bylaws including the building bylaw and zoning bylaw, including but not limited to demolition and removal of the unlawful dwelling from the lands, with all costs of said lands being certified as a debt recoverable against the respondent.”
Beaton isn’t sure how the matter can be resolved as long as the Township staff remain determined to enforce the demolition order while he is just as determined to keep the house.
“It’s not going anywhere,” he said.
He said he was told that the Township is concerned allowing the house to stay would set a precedent that would mean other property owners who are building new homes might also seek to keep older existing houses to rent, too.
“How is that a bad thing?” Horvath said.
At a time when rental rates are rising, an older house in good shape would be an affordable alternative, Horvath said.
“We’re not wanting to charge a heap of money,” she said.
Ideally, the couple said, they would like to work out an arrangement with the Township that would allow the house to stand and the tenants to return.
When contacted by the Times, Township mayor Jack Froese said he couldn’t comment directly without knowing more about the specifics of the matter, but invited the couple to make their case to council directly.
Froese also said the Township was conducting a review of policies governing situations like the one described to him by The Times.