A group of Montreal West citizens has mobilized against the proposed demolition of a old house to make way for three to be built on the same spot.
“My immediate reaction was to be horrified and outraged with the idea that they would demolish a lovely home, and then when I found out the intention was to subdivide the large, treed lot into three and build three new homes, that was even more appalling,” said Margaret Griffin, who has lived in Montreal West since 1989.
The property on Easton Ave. is next to what is famously known as Devil’s Hill, where Montreal West erected a barrier more than a decade ago to prevent cars from using the neighbourhood as a shortcut toward Highway 20.
Despite its real estate listing as being built in 1927, a book written by the town’s historian about the area lists the house as built in 1919, making it roughly 100 years old, Griffin said.
“This is an arts-and-crafts style house, and it’s distinctive because it’s low and has a very large footprint,” she said.
Griffin submitted a photograph of the house to the website of Heritage Montreal, and it is now on the site’s list of threatened homes.
She said the lot in question has many trees, so subdividing the land would probably mean cutting many of them down. She’s also concerned the three smaller houses would look out of place in the neighbourhood.
“Montreal West describes itself as a garden suburb,” she said. “The large lots are important for the aesthetic quality of the neighbourhood. It wouldn’t be a house with great big yard and garden and trees; it would be three houses crammed into a very small space.”
Griffin said she is one of about 50 residents who submitted letters to Montreal West council opposing the demolition. She said neighbours received notification about the slated demolition a week ago, when town workers delivered information sheets door to door. Residents have until the end of the day Monday to submit letters opposing the demolition. A meeting of the town council will be held the following Monday, Dec. 16, to discuss the request and take a vote.
“I’d be delighted if they reject the demolition outright; I don’t think that’s going to happen, but I would like them to at least take (delay) the procedure,” Griffin said.
Speaking to the Montreal Gazette on Saturday evening, Montreal West Mayor Beny Masella said the town council has not yet decided how it will rule and would like to hear from all concerned.
Masella said the town gets few demolition requests. This is the first one in seven years, and the first request since the bylaw on demolitions was changed in 2016.
“We have received a few letters and there are some people who feel there is a heritage value to this home. We don’t have any homes that are defined that way, but people have a certain attraction to the style of that home, and that’s why we want to hear from them when we meet on that Monday,” Masella said.
As for dividing the lot into three, Masella said he doesn’t think three homes in that space would look out of place.
“That’s a 15,000-square-foot lot, and the person wants to put three homes on that,” he said. “There are lots very similar to what the proponent has proposed on that same street.”
Masella said based on the interest this demolition request has generated, he thinks it’s likely council will delay a vote on Dec. 16 so councillors can carefully weigh the concerns of residents.
“Someone made a proposal that fits within our bylaws, and by law we have to go through the process and hear out what everyone has to say and make a decision based on that,” he said.