Disguised Expropriation: Supreme Court Ruling Raises Concern
The value of Ginette Dupras' land in Mascouche, where a section of the “La Persévérante” trail and a bike path in the Grand-Coteau municipal park pass , was estimated at $4.5 million in 2015.
Municipalities that want to protect the environment on their territory risk having to compensate landowners, fear environmental groups in the wake of a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada.
< p class="e-p">In a decision handed down on Thursday, the highest court in the country rejected the request for leave to appeal from the City of Mascouche in a dispute opposing it to a landlord, Ginette Dupras.< /p>
About fifty years ago, Ms. Dupras became the owner of a large wooded lot, north of Highway 640, in Mascouche, near what is now the municipal park of Grand -Hill. She acquired the land from her aunt for the sum of a dollar.
In 2008, she learned that her lot, previously zoned residential over 70% of its area, was completely affected by conservation. . Under a new zoning regulation, the possible uses are limited in order to protect the natural environments and the biodiversity of the site. Any construction is therefore prohibited.
In 2016, the owner decided to sue the City of Mascouche for disguised expropriation, believing that she had been deprived of any use on her land. The Superior Court and then the Quebec Court of Appeal have in turn ruled in its favour.
On May 13, the City of Mascouche, supported by many environmental groups, including the David Suzuki Foundation, filed an appeal to the Supreme Court.
With the Supreme Court's rejection on Thursday, the Court of Appeal's decision thus stands.
Environmental groups are concerned. This decision has serious consequences for the protection of natural environments and calls for a rapid correction of the legal framework, estimates the Quebec Center for Environmental Law in a press release.
The upholding of the Quebec Court of Appeal's decision confirms that zoning by-laws used to protect natural environments of interest may expose municipalities to having to compensate private owners who lose the possibility of carrying out residential development on their land , it is argued.
Before suing the City in 2015, Ms. Dupras had her lot appraised, the value of which was estimated at $4.5 million. The City of Mascouche subsequently refused to acquire the land. In August 2020, the Superior Court judge concluded that she should pay Ms. Dupras an expropriation indemnity of $436,000.
De Grandpré Chait, who represented Ginette Dupras before the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, sees this as a great victory for private owners in matters of disguised expropriation.
When the owner of land is faced with a situation of disguised expropriation, he can apply to the Superior Court in order to be compensated,” De Grandpré Chait said in a statement.