Signing our Lives Away

Friday was a big day.

I submitted three copies of our Heritage Revitalization Agreement to the City of Maple Ridge with Leanne’s and my signature on them. Adrian Kopystinski, heritage planner, met me on his lunch break and then had to run. His sweetheart was taking him out for Valentine’s.

Adrian, Leanne and I have all been working hard on this for a long time.
Adrian, Leanne and I have all been working hard on this for a long time.

This puts us on track for our HRA, re-zoning and tax exemption bylaw to be read for the third and final time by City Council on February 24th, 2015.

Assuming all is well, from that date forward we will be designated.


A bunch of things will happen, including:

We will renegotiate our home insurance. Many underwriters simply do not cover heritage properties. It’s going to cost more, of course.

The clock will start ticking. We have one year to commence our renovation and five years to finish.

We will become exempt from the municipal portion of our property taxes for five years. In my last post about The Now House Project, I originally wrote a figure of $4000 for our 2014 Municipal taxes. That was our total property tax. The Municipal portion is half that or $2068.81. At that rate, a five-year exemption would save us $10344.05.

This last item sounds pretty sweet, but as I went into when I first wrote about appearing before city council, the savings in taxes is not free money. It helps, but does not balance the costs to obtaining the Heritage Agreement.

Among the costs have been an architect, lawyer, structural engineer, plumber, excavator, electric company and city engineering crew. Not all of these would be incurred by a simpler HRA, and some of them are the result of wanting to do it right–short-term cost for long-term payoff.

imageThe freshest unavoidable cost is the $16248 I paid on Friday after Adrian left for his lunch date (but I’m not bitter.)

That’s right: $16K

Engineering requires us to connect to the storm sewer so that excess water, especially in extreme weather events (and we can expect more of those), has a place to go. If you look at our plans you will see that we are deepening the basement into a more useable space. We will certainly be updating the perimiter drain that collects water around the base of the foundation. There is nothing for it; we have to agree to a storm sewer.

imageThe money I paid on Friday is a security against the work. It is a condition in the HRA so we had to pay it before we could go forward with our final date with council. We are waiting for a more precise estimate for the work which may be higher yet.

It is incredible to Leanne and I that it costs $16K to dig a trench in a road and lay a pipe. We had a theory that some of that money must go to general engineering work. However, I have been assured that is simply how much the work costs. It includes things like traffic management, re-paving, an inspection chamber, etc.

What it doesn’t include is anything on our property. The perimiter drain around the house and pipe to the property line  where our $16K connection is waiting for us is a future cost we can look forward to.

So you can understand when I say that Friday was one of mixed emotions. It was momentous to sign a final document but it was painful to watch $16 248 disappear to pay for something we didn’t ask for. I would love to see a simplified process whereby single-family heritage homes can protect their homes without going through the same process a developer does when subdividing a large heritage lot. Anyone?

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James Rowley

James lives in Maple Ridge, BC, Canada with his amazing partner, Leanne Koehn, and their two amazing kids in their beautiful house. He studied Science and English Literature at the University of British Columbia where he met Leanne. He also studied acting for a while at Studio 58 in Vancouver. He works as a teacher of English and curriculum writer for new Canadians.

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