The Washington Post

Versailles-type mansion in Great Falls upended by lawsuit

A sign shows how a new home would have looked at 494 River Bend Road on April 23 in Great Falls, Va. It would have been more than 25,000 square feet. (Matt McClain/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

A controversial plan to build a massive mansion inspired by the Palace of Versailles in a tony Great Falls neighborhood will not go forward, but the house could be built elsewhere in the Washington area, the builder said Friday.

The property’s owner decided not to continue work on “Le Chateau de Lumiere,” a 25,424-square-foot project, after a next-door neighbor in Hidden Springs filed a lawsuit, said Mike Mafi of the Building Group.

Mafi, who was also named in the lawsuit, said that stopping the project is one of the terms of a settlement being worked out between the owner, Young Yi, and the neighbors, former Gannett chief executive Craig Dubow and his wife, Denise.

The Dubows, who did not return a call for comment on Friday, said that the mansion would harm home values and that its design violated covenants that guide how properties in Hidden Springs can be developed. They were also upset that Yi had cut down many trees to build the home in a neighborhood that was designed to be a woodsy retreat.

Yi, who could not be reached Friday to comment, had planned to live there with her husband and children and thought of it as a dream home, her attorney has said. Fairfax County officials have said the project had the proper permits to proceed.

“We are going to build that house, but not on that lot,” said Mafi, who said he owns the rights to the building plans. “This type of house is more in keeping with Potomac than Great Falls. We don’t have all the details yet, but someone is interested in building the home there.”

The project generated local and national media attention after The Washington Post wrote about the dispute. Mafi said he has received five or six calls — including one from Germany — from people interested in building the home.

Crews broke ground on the chateau in February and had finished more than $1 million worth of work, including pouring the foundation and building out the home’s geothermal and septic systems, before stopping, Mafi said.

It is unclear what Yi will do with the five-acre lot in Hidden Springs. Mafi said that she might sell it or build a smaller home there but that she has not made a decision. She is the head of a chain of Northern Virginia clinics that treat sleep disorders.

Mafi said that the chateau, which would also include a pool house, would cost between $12 million and $15 million to build, not the $15 to $20 million previously estimated by builders and real estate agents. He added that if he builds the home elsewhere, he would try to do it on a 10- to 15-acre lot to avoid problems with neighbors.

Attorneys for Yi and the Dubows also did not return calls for comment Friday.

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