• John Jantak

Mayor Grimaudo defends St. Lazare’s Dunes Lake land swap deal


St. Lazare Mayor Robert Grimaudo (centre) said a land swap deal that resulted in developer Habitations Robert exchanging land adjacent to Dunes Lake for other wooded lots in the municipality was made so that all residents could benefit from the newly created parkland.

A land swap deal made in early spring to preserve the forested land surrounding Dunes Lake from residential development in St. Lazare’s Saddlebrook district was done to benefit all residents within the municipality, said St. Lazare Mayor Robert Grimaudo.

Grimaudo was responding to statements made by resident Normand Limoges during the first question period at the Tuesday evening council meeting who criticized the town for preserving the Dunes Lake forest at the expense of Cedarbrook residents who will see a large swath of forested land in their district razed to make way for a four-unit residential development as a result of the land transfer.

Limoges said the town’s most precious asset – its forests – are rapidly disappearing as new developments continue to encroach onto woodlands that were intended for preservation.

“You have land in one particular sector that has been sacrificed in order to satisfy the needs of another sector to preserve their forest,” said Limoges. According to Limoges, the land transfer made by the town and Habitations Robert, which ceded its land ownership around Dunes Lake in exchange for other parcels of land within the municipality including the wooded lots next to Limoges’s house, contradicts the town’s longstanding assertion that as previous owner of the Cedarbrook land, it was to have been preserved as a green space. Limoges contends the town could have looked at other options and consulted with area residents.

“They could have asked the citizens if they wanted to purchase the land to compensate the developer,” said Limoges. “Another way would have been to give Habitations Robert land where nobody is living near so that it wouldn’t affect people. We weren’t offered any alternatives and the municipality decided to give those lots away instead. Why should we have to pay the price for another forest that will disappear?” Limoges asked.

Grimaudo said the land swap was the best the solution at the time because it allowed the town to protect the large, diverse Dunes Lake forest instead of several smaller wooded lots scattered throughout the municipality.

“The reality is that when it comes to conservation, you’re better off conserving large areas as opposed to many small areas,” Grimaudo told Your Local Journal after the meeting. “It’s environmentally logical. Conservation is based on maintaining healthy ecosystems so the larger the area that is conserved, the better the ecosystem.”

As development in St. Lazare continues, Grimaudo noted that other residents would have probably raised the same concerns if another parcel of land in a different area was swapped instead. “It’s an emotional issue for Mr. Limoges and I understand his concerns,” said Grimaudo. “He’s lived there for a long time and there’s always been a wooded area next to his house and now he’s losing that. It’s the old ‘not in my backyard’ response and I understand that.

“But the decisions we take are for the good of the whole town,” Grimaudo added. “We can’t make our decisions based on concerns made by five or six or seven residents. We have to make our decisions based on what’s good for our 19,000 residents. It’s not easy and I understand his dilemma but that’s what happens when you live in a residential area. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Grimaudo said the Dunes Lake forest became a major issue during the municipal election last fall because citizens wanted a solution to protect the woodlands from inevitable development without having to pay higher taxes. This precluded the need to hold a town-wide referendum on the issue under the new municipal administration.

“It was an election issue,” said Grimaudo. “There’s no doubt about it. The election was better than having had a referendum. The election was about the people speaking and they wanted conservation. We did a survey last year when we were preparing our conservation plan which was very clear. The people wanted us to protect green spaces but not through tax dollars and we found a way to do exactly that.”