Emotions run high at development consultation meeting
Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue north project meets stiff resistance from local residents
By Ian Howarth The Suburban, May 30th 2012
A full house of mostly disgruntled Ste. Anne de Bellevue north citizens made their feelings for the proposed development of a 276-hectare area west of the L’Anse à l’Orme Nature Park abundantly clear Monday night at a public consultation meeting held at Ecole Bout de l’Îsle. About 400 people crowded in the school’s gymnasium to hear Ste. Anne town council officials explain the project that calls for extensive development of the area including commercial buildings, single-home dwellings, townhouses, apartments and condominiums. The proposed project could see the population of Ste. Anne’s north grow by 5,200 people, causing environmental, economic and traffic congestion problems for the area. Paola Hawa, councillor for District 6 that covers the Ste. Anne’s north territory, opposes the project and Monday night got into a rancorous exchange with Mayor Francis DeRoo over whether council would commit to more detailed environmental, economic and traffic impact studies before the project goes ahead. With Hawa asking a question at the microphone, DeRoo came from the back of the gym where he had stood most of the night to defend council’s actions. “This (the project) is not Francis Deroo’s PPU (Plan Particulier d’Urbanisme), it is the city’s PPU,” he told Hawa.
Some other members of the audience began shouting at DeRoo from the floor and proceedings were derailed as DeRoo shouted back. In a quieter moment outside the hall, Hawa explained her position. “We need to hear that the mayor understands the plan,” she said. “He should have had these impact studies done before we brought the plan to the citizens. There has been a lack of due diligence. After tonight (Monday) I think the citizens have the momentum. The bear has been brought out of hibernation.” Whether the mood of the public moves council to back up and make adjustment to its PPU for Ste. Anne’s north remains to be seen. But if local resident Lucie Marceau and her neighbours continue with their on-line petition opposing the development proposal and going door-to-door, council may have reason for pause. “We would actually prefer to have less density development,” she explained. “The current plan calls for a number of single-family homes on relatively small plots of land. For us more commercial development would be better because it would bring in more tax revenues. Keep the industrial zone we already have, but council needs to do its homework.” Marceau joins a number of citizens who spoke Monday expressing the need for more impact studies.
The Green Coalition’s David Fletcher called the project “unsustainable,” adding that what people want is “conservation to the maximum.” Fletcher, a retired teacher and well-known environmental activist, suggested that the Ste. Anne north project not include any single-family homes or condos. “The footprint of this project is too great,” he said. “This area is a sensitive eco-zone with trees and animals, not to mention humans. People have a natural attachment to nature and high-density development works against that.” Hawa has Ste. Anne councillor Ryan Young behind her with the issue of council considering more consultations and impact studies. Young, who is chairman of the city’s Environment Committee, said that while the committee did review the proposed PPU, the committee made no recommendations. “I want as much green space protected and that the project be as environmentally friendly as possible.” Emotions could continue to be high at next week’s council caucus meeting. “I’ll be surprised if they let me in.” Hawa joked.