A judge has ruled that a $3million luxury home in Quebec, Canada, built less than ten years ago must be demolished – and the local city will need to pay for it.
The ruling is the latest in a roughly eight-year legal saga that began when the home was built too close to the street, violating local zoning laws in the city of Gatineau.
The judge’s decision overrules an exemption the city gave the homeowner in a bid to keep the mansion as-is.
In his ruling this week, Quebec Superior Court Judge Michel Deniel said owner Patrick Molla had every reason to believe his home met building code requirements when the city granted him permits to build in May 2013, the Canadian Press reported.
That September, however, the city discovered that the planning official who approved the permits made an error when they allowed construction to go forward on the home, which is about 23 feet from the street. Homes must be built at least 51 feet away from the street, according to local bylaws.
Building officials in the City of Gatineau made an error when they approved construction plans for Molla’s home (pictured), and later tried to give him an exemption. The judge’s ruling nullifies that exemption, saying it was an abuse of power
Not only will the home need to come down, but the city will need to pay for it
The $3million mansion that homeowner Patrick Molla (pictured) built roughly eight years ago will need to be demolished because it is too close to the street, a Quebec Superior Court judge ruled this week
Instead of telling Molla to stop construction on the home, however, the city allowed it to go forward, telling him that the problem would be taken care of. In February, 2014, Molla’s family moved into the home, and in July, 2014 it granted him a ‘minor exemption’ to keep it in compliance.
Deniel’s ruling override’s Gatineau’s exemption, and says there was likely little choice except for it to be torn down.
He sided with neighbors who complained the property was out of character with the rest of the neighborhood and argued that the the city’s exemption was an illegal abuse of power.
‘Had he known the risk of eventual demolition, he would not have continued issued Moll construction on Sept. 25, 2013,’ Deniel said in his ruling.
‘Reassuring him about this technical error which will be corrected by a minor exemption at the expense of the city, he continues to invest his “retirement fund” in his house to the tune of approximately $3 million.’
The city had asked the court not to order the home’s destruction, but Deniel noted that it had not offered any alternatives.
The street is 23 feet from the street. Homes must be built at least 51 feet away from the street, according to local bylaws
The judge noted that city officials gave Molla false hope by saying construction on his home could go forward. Molla is separately suing the city for $3.6million
Sebastien Gelineau, an attorney representing the neighbors who had complained, said his clients are pleased. ‘They are happy with the decision,’ he told the Canadian Press in an email. ‘They ask that their privacy be respected.’
‘I understand the frustration when this was built, but after so long I also feel bad for the owner’ one neighbor Claudine Gagnon told CTV News.
‘Nobody was happy when it was being built so if it’s coming down then I would think there’s a few people here who are a little more than happy,’ another neighbor Mike Beard.
Separately, in 2019 Molla filed a lawsuit against Gatineau for $3.6million in damages, saying that city officials had misled him, and knew of the potential consequences if they allowed construction to go forward.
It is seeking to recoup $2.9million in construction costs as well as more than $600,000 for damage to reputation and inconvenience to Molla’s family.
In that suit Gatineau has argued that the building subcontractors Molla hired were to blame for the error by not accounting for local bylaws in the construction plans. The results of that suit are pending.
Molla’s attorney did not immediately return a request for comment.
Gatineau has 30 days to appeal the ruling.
‘Our legal department is in the process of analyzing everything, therefore no comments will be made on the file,’ the city told the Canadian Press.