Pierrefonds woman gets $2,000 tax bill for land she doesn't own

A Pierrefonds family says the city is backing down on a handshake agreement made with the city some 40 years ago, and charging taxes on a once-neglected city lot they are now using.

Greg Iwaniuk says when he was still a kid in the 1970s, his mother Odette pledged to take over and maintain the lot, which had been a magnet for teenagers who sometimes lit garbage dumpsters on fire.

The family planted a garden, and put an above-ground pool on it.

"40, 45 years ago, they asked the city if we fenced that off, and we stopped people from dumping here, can we do that?" Greg says. "They said, 'sure, if you do anything, it helps us.'"

But now, the family is on the hook for two years' worth of taxes on the space, amounting to nearly $2000. Odette, now 84, was apparently told that because she uses the space, she now has to pay taxes on it, even though she isn't able to build on it, because massive sewer pipes run underneath.

Dimitrios Jim Beis, the mayor of the Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough, told CJAD 800 News he made a request to the city for more information on the case, and is still waiting on an answer.

"I'm curious to know how it is that for decades, there hasn't been any issue with this resident using this property," Beis says, "and all of a sudden, when the evaluation roll comes out, it's discovered there's a small portion of land. We have to understand that the land does not belong to the resident, it's city property, and we have to treat it accordingly."

Beis suggests that while this kind of mix-up happens occasionally across the island, exceptions have been made, and solutions found — and he says he's working to find one for Odette Iwaniuk that would nullify the surprise tax bill.

-CJAD 800's Emily Campbell contributed to this report.