VAUDREUIL-DORION – People in Vaudreuil-Dorion are rallying around 81-year-old Peder Mortensen, who’s being threatened with eviction.
Mortensen has lived in his hand-built house in the community for more than 60 years.
Now, the mayor is calling it a fire hazard and insists he has to go.
Global News’ request for access to the documents outlining the problems with Mortensen’s house was denied.
Without a doubt, the 81 year-old’s home is quite unique.
“I’ve been living here for so long, it can’t be such a bad house,” Mortensen said.
He’s got bags full of leaves hanging in his yard, which he says reduce sound.
He also has homemade insulation: a retractable window covered in tin foil.
“I’m not able to tell how long I’m going to live – I’m 81 – but I’m going to hang on as long as I can,” Mortensen said.
Some would consider his home odd, but the retired engineer says everything has a reason for being there.
His neighbours say they know and love him for that.
“I’ve been in this community for 40 years and I remember seeing Peder ride his bicycle around all over town,” said Jamie Nicholls, a former MP for Vaudreuil-Dorion.
“He was really a symbol of sustainability for our community.”
After Global News reported that the City of Vaudreuil-Dorion is seeking an injunction to demolish his home – citing fire hazards – the neighbours rallied behind Mortensen.
“I was shocked, he’s been living here since the 60s all through,” said Ed Schiller, who has been Mortensen’s neighbour since 1971.
Thursday morning, they started a petition and plan to bring it to the mayor once it reaches 2,000 signatures.
By 5 p.m. the same day, they had collected 373 signatures.
“We’ll do whatever we have to do make sure we’ll make him happy,” said Charlie Berkovitz, a neighbour across the street.
Nicholls is also crowdfunding to build Mortensen a sustainable house. if need be.
“It was important for me because he has lived so frugally, so simply, so light on the Earth, that perhaps we should recognize that fact,” he said.
Guy Pilon, Vaudreuil-Dorion’s mayor, said pressure from the community doesn’t change things.
“I don’t think people would let an animal live in a place like that,” Pilon said.
“I wouldn’t let an 82 year-old man live on that.”
The mayor said he’s received one phone call so far and a couple of Facebook messages – one all the way from Alberta – speaking out in support of Mortensen.
He insisted people simply aren’t aware of the danger Mortensen is, in as he showed Global News pictures of the interior of the home, which included piles of pasta and juice boxes.
Regardless, Pilon said he’s open to finding a solution.
But he insists keeping Mortensen’s home as is is not an option.
Sylvan Schneider, a real estate lawyer, said it is a tricky situation.
“An old man shouldn’t be kicked out of his home and the city has their rights in order to ensure the safety of the municipality,” he said.
Schneider pointed out the city is within the law, but wondered if there could be a different approach.
“I think sitting down and both parties amicably resolving this matter would be, in my opinion, the best interest for the resolution of both parties involved,” he said.
The city says it’s arranging a meeting with Mortensen for next week.