Wekerle wins lawsuit over sale of historic Thornhill chapel
Property dispute between siblings and buyer comes down to ‘uniqueness’
Protecting a heritage property is not a matter of ‘freezing’ a property in time.”
An Ontario judge has refused to enforce the sale of St. Michael Chapel in Thornhill, putting to bed a year-long family dispute between the Wekerle siblings: Dragons’ Den star and investor Michael, his sister Carolyn and their mother, Hermine, vs. sisters Caron and Christine and principal architect of Urbanscape Group, Ali Malek-Zadeh.
St. Michael Chapel was built in the 1840s, identified as a significant historical property in the 1970s and designated as a heritage site in 1982. It is one of six Thornhill properties with its own designation under the Ontario Heritage Act.
“It’s really quite historical, as are a number of the other homes in that area,” said Ward 5 councillor Alan Shefman. “And of course, the entire Thornhill village is designated as a historical village.”
According to Rob Bayley, from the City of Vaughan, Urban Design and Cultural Heritage Department, the chapel’s congregation moved out of the building in 1959 after a new church was built nearby to accommodate the church’s growing numbers. “Protecting a heritage property
is not a matter of ‘freezing’ a
property in time but guiding change in such a way as to preserve, as appropriate, its
contributing elements,” Bayley wrote in an emailed response to Post City.
According to court documents, the dispute began last summer when Caron agreed to sell the family chapel, located at 7788 Yonge St., for $1.5 million to architect Malek-Zadeh, who had plans to turn it into an office. After lengthy litigation over whether or not Caron Wekerle had the right to sell the property, Malek-Zadeh filed a lawsuit seeking closure of the sale. According to the court documents, he was drawn to the chapel because of its historic nature and uniqueness as it relates to his business as an architecture firm. In order to rule in favour of Malek-Zadeh, however, the judge would have had to find evidence that “its substitute would not be readily available,” based on the use of the term “unique.” In his ruling, judge Herman Wilton-Siegel wrote, “The applicants [Ali Malek-Zadeh et al.] have done no more than establish that, in the opinion of Ali, the Property is unique based on his assertion that it is a heritage property.”
In his closing remarks, the judge noted that Malek-Zadeh can now move to determine whether or not there are any damages owed for breach of contract.
St. Michael Chapel in Thornhill