Got a driveway? You can't park in it if you don't have a garage in this Montreal borough

Martine Corbeil and many of her neighbours have homes whose garages have been converted to living spaces, but Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve says it hasn't been permitted for some 50 years and is now telling owners to park in the street.

Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve cracks down on decades-old bylaw requiring driveway to have garage

Woman in front of car
Martine Corbeil says she has been parking in her driveway since 1997 and now plugs her electric car in at a charging station attached to her house. (Steve Rukavina/CBC)

Martine Corbeil has lived in her Montreal home since 1997 and has always parked her car in the driveway out front.

But last August, she got a letter from the borough of Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

"It said that we were not allowed to park in front of our house according to this bylaw," she said.

That will certainly complicate things for her — and not just because she has to carry her groceries from a curbside spot.

She has an electric car and there's a charging station attached to her house so she can plug her vehicle in when it is parked in the very driveway she has been parking in for more than 25 years.

But the bylaw the borough is referring to was introduced long before electric cars and home charging stations became mainstream. It was drafted in 1974, when Jean Drapeau was mayor.

It says parking isn't allowed in any driveway directly in front of a home, unless that driveway leads to a garage.

Corbeil and many of her neighbours have homes where garages have been converted to living spaces. It's a renovation many people have done to properties across Montreal, but even if a borough has a bylaw requiring a garage to have a driveway, it's rarely enforced.

Electric car plugged into house
Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve residents are being told they can't park in their driveway if they don't have a garage, but Martine Corbeil says she won't be able to plug her car in. (Steve Rukavina/CBC)

Properties are sold and bought, with new owners not even realizing their driveway was made illegal years before when the garage was converted into a living space.

Now it appears the east end borough is cracking down. Corbeil said about a dozen people in her neighbourhood received the same letter she did. 

Corbeil doesn't understand why, after ignoring the bylaw for decades, the borough is suddenly concerned.

Borough mayor Pierre Lessard-Blais was unavailable for an interview but in a statement he said, "the situation came to our attention after we received a complaint from a local resident."

"The regulation is still relevant today, to protect green spaces, prevent flooding and increase pedestrian security," he said.

Corbeil said none of those explanations makes any sense, and she doesn't understand why her driveway poses more of a problem than a driveway in front of a garage.

"I guess you have to have some rules — some structure," she said. 

"But 50 years later, if you realize that 'well, this doesn't make sense anymore' why don't you just sit down and try to find a solution that costs less? It doesn't cost anything."

Now she's expected to park in the street rather than her driveway. She calls the situation absurd.

The borough mayor said he's looking at changing the bylaw, particularly to accommodate electric vehicles, but for now the regulation stands.

with files from Steve Rukavina


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