The prospect of building a new 380-unit housing development at the foot of Mont Saint-Hilaire is causing controversy in the eponymous commune.
Posted at 5:00 am
The development of a new district on 29 hectares of land in the A-16 zone at the intersection of Ozias-Leduc and de la Montagne streets means the disappearance of an orchard and the destruction of a wetland, lament citizens, who are also afraid of the traffic problems to come.
“It’s going to scratch the landscape,” protests Pierre Nault, president of the Association of Citizens of Mont-Saint-Hilaire (ACMSH), which organized rallies, attended public meetings and distributed petitions to beg the local council not to allow housing subdivisions on this site.
However, due to two court rulings, the municipality had no choice but to approve residential development on the property in question, explains Mayor Marc-André Guertin.
“We didn’t take it lightly, it was a common sense decision,” Mr Guertin said. We believe that we have done the best job under the conditions that have been offered to us and we believe that we have closed a chapter that began 30 years ago and ends after a long work.
“We don’t live in Mont-Saint-Hilaire to promote development, but because we enjoy the area’s attractions. »
Judgments in favor of the owners
The lots in Zone A-16 are owned by several owners, some of whom intend to sell them to developers who can build apartments there. It includes the Sullivan Orchard, Strøm Bath, a forest, an apple store, a nursery, some residential houses and wasteland.
For several years the municipality prohibited the development of these lands by various means at its disposal.
But in 2019, a group of homeowners sued the community to demand permission to build homes there. A 2020 ruling, upheld by the 2021 Court of Appeals, agreed with him, noting that the municipality had shown bad faith in the case.
The new mayor elected in autumn 2021 was impressed by this “hot potato”.
With the court giving until August 2022 to amend its bylaws accordingly, the city council had to act quickly. Therefore, during the June 6 meeting, the elected officials approved a special zoning plan (PPU) for the sector, calling for an average density of 15 housing units per hectare.
The tallest buildings will have 3 floors in some areas of development and a maximum height of 12 meters.
Two forest plots in Zone A-16 will be protected from any development. The municipality wants to acquire them in order to make them accessible to the population, but does not have the necessary funds. She therefore started a crowdfunding campaign to raise $500,000 for this cause. Just over $5,000 has been raised since the beginning of the month.
special status area
But that’s not enough for ACMSH, which would have wished the city had applied for the sector to be designated a special-status zone, to limit development there.
“We submitted a 60-page document showing the possibility of such a request,” said Pierre Nault. The councilman says he’s green, but he’s scared of the two verdicts, and he’s scared of the lawsuits. »
The city countered that such a procedure would take at least a year, which would exceed the time limit set by the court, and that the A-16 zone would not be allowed anyway, since it does not represent any particularities and exceptional environmental features that make a special justify status.
Comedian Marcel Leboeuf is the only local councilor who voted against the PPU and passed the other statutes. As a supporter of urban farming, he says he is very disappointed with the turn of events.
He points out that the Sullivan Orchard, located in Zone A-16, is the last to date from the time of the painter Ozias Leduc.
“It’s very sad to want to sabotage these lands and turn them into condominiums,” he laments. Such a waste of territory, it comes to my mind deeply. Yes, it needs homes and condos, but you need to preserve the foothills to protect the mountain. »