Critics fear loss of green spaces in regional development plan

Posted on

Critics fear loss of green spaces in regional development plan
Monique Beaudin, The Gazette, Wednesday, January 18, 2012

But West Island residents worry about green space
West Island residents who worry that a new regional development plan will force them to allow construction on green spaces should not be concerned, say representatives of the Montreal Metropolitan Community.

The Plan métropolitain d’aménagement et de développement, known as PMAD, which was adopted by the MMC last month, aims to limit urban sprawl, encourage the use of public transit and protect natural spaces in the Montreal region.

The plan calls for high-density housing to be concentrated around transit stations and for 17 per cent of the region’s territory to be protected as green spaces. The plan covers Montreal, Laval, Longueuil, the North Shore and the South Shore, and it was their municipal representatives who approved the plan, following public consultation last fall.

But some conservation groups said last week they worried that green spaces like the Angell Woods in Beaconsfield could end up being developed because they are close to commuter-train stations.

Those fears are unjustified, said François Desrochers of the MMC’s transport and planning department. Protection of natural spaces is an important part of the PMAD, he said. Because it encourages that protection, it is unlikely that the MMC would allow a forest located near a commuter-train station or bus terminal to be developed, he said.

The PMAD “has requirements to protect natural spaces, wetlands, and agricultural lands,” Desrochers said. “If you do decide to encroach a little bit on those lands, it would have to be for a very, very good reason.”

Although the PMAD was adopted last month, it hasn’t yet come into effect.

Quebec’s Municipal Affairs Department is analyzing the plan to make sure it conforms to the provincial government’s vision for development, said Anthony Dulude, a spokesperson for Municipal Affairs Minister Laurent Lessard.

The government has until mid-May to decide whether to approve the plan. Dulude said he did not know when the government will make a decision.

Once Quebec approves the plan, regional municipalities and towns and cities will then have up to 2½ years to make sure their development plans and urban planning bylaws conform to the PMAD.

West Island residents aren’t the only people wondering what effect the PMAD will have on protection of natural spaces.

Opponents of a controversial plan to build 30 luxury homes in a privately owned forest in St. Bruno say it contravenes the spirit of the PMAD.

But the green-space protection requirements in the PMAD don’t apply to development projects now because the plan isn’t yet in effect, said MMC spokesperson Suzy Peate. That will only happen once Quebec gives the plan its approval.

After that, the MMC will have the power to decide whether to reject or accept projects that don’t conform to the plan, Peate said. Development projects will have to be submitted to town or city authorities, as well as to the MMC, she said.