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Councillors frustrated vacant homes left to rot during housing crisis

Vacant, crumbling, and a magnet for trespassers— neighbours of a 160-year old farmhouse want it to be demolished.

The Planning and Environment Committee (PEC) was asked by Sifton Properties to remove 1588 Clarke Road (at Kilally Road) from London’s Register of Cultural Heritage Resources so that a demolition permit can be issued.

However, Coun. Peter Cuddy expressed disappointment that the home was allowed to sit vacant until it deteriorated beyond repair.

“I spoke from this (council) seat not that many months ago about what good corporate citizens the owners of these properties were, but today I have to say, that they haven’t done a good job at maintaining these properties— and they could have,” Cuddy told colleagues on the committee.

Built in the 1860s by the Tackabury family, the farmhouse was placed on the city’s heritage registry after the area was annexed by London in 1993.

The listing of a property on the registry means it is considered to have potential cultural heritage value, but is not formally designated heritage protection.

The demolition request triggered a formal evaluation of the farmhouse’s heritage value.

City staff agreed with the findings of a Heritage Impact Assessment provided by Sifton Properties that concludes, “the buildings associated with the property do not need to be retained.”

House built around 1881 at 176 Piccadilly Street in London, Ont. on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023. (Daryl Newcombe/CTV News London)Coun.

Cuddy mentioned what could have been.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had properties that could have been saved, that could have been revitalized, but they can’t. They’re far too gone now,” he said.

The Tackabury farmhouse wasn’t the only rotting Victorian-era home recommended for removal from the heritage registry on Monday.

Built around 1881, the small house at 176 Piccadilly Street is boarded up and in serious disrepair.

City staff issued a property standards order in February 2022.

“These items on our (agenda) have been neglected significantly, leaving us with very little alternative except demolition,” lamented Coun. Skylar Franke.

According to city staff, unless a home has been granted formal heritage protection, there are few ways to ensure it remains in good condition.

“We see a variety of different approaches from other municipalities in Ontario, unfortunately demolition by neglect has been a persistent issue,” explained heritage planner Kyle Gonyou.

Ultimately, members of PEC voted to recommend that both properties be removed from the heritage registry, thereby clearing the way for a demolition permit.

“The city doesn’t own these properties, private people own these properties. So (maintaining them) is up to the private owner,” admitted chair of PEC Steve Lehman after the meeting.

Council will make a final decision about removing the properties from the heritage registry on Tuesday, Sept. 26. Top Stories

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