Wek­erle wins law­suit over sale of his­toric Thorn­hill chapel

Prop­erty dis­pute be­tween sib­lings and buyer comes down to ‘unique­ness’

Thornhill Post - - CONTENTS - by Adam Stein­berg

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

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