Revitalization of Ste. Anne’s village just one of Hawa’s many priorities Part of our ongoing series
Finding the right balance between future development and preserving the city’s unique environmental heritage is one of the challenges Ste. Anne de Bellevue Mayor Paola Hawa continues to tackle as 30 representatives from different organizations met on Tuesday to discuss and propose suggestions on how the municipality should brand itself as moves into the future.
The revitalization of Ste. Anne de Bellevue’s southern downtown village, and the finding the right balance between future development and preservation of the city’s unique environmental heritage in the north, are just two challenges that Mayor Paola Hawa has been dealing with since she became mayor following last November’s municipal election.
Hawa found the time to speak to Your Local Journal about her first year in office during a forum at the Schluter Systems manufacturing facility on Chemin Ste. Marie on Tuesday that brought together 30 participants from throughout the city and island to discuss how Ste. Anne’s should best brand itself as it heads into the future.
Officials from the city, the Société de Transport de Montréal, McGill University, John Abbott College, the Ecomuseum, Morgan Arboretum, developers, shop and restaurant owners, and former resident Cliff ord Lincoln participated in the day-long event to present their suggestions on how the city should proceed with future development that will have a direct impact on its future.
“It’s that balancing act between development and keeping the character of Ste. Anne’s, respecting the environment yet making us economically stable to ensure our future,” said Hawa. “What is Ste. Anne’s? What do we want to be when we grow up? That is the million dollar question and we have to find the answer to that before we start thinking about development.
“The last thing I want to do is have piecemeal development,” Hawa added. “We need a global vision, not just for the next five years, but for the next 10, 15, 20 years as well. The decisions we’re going to make about development today are going to affect all of Ste. Anne’s. It’s also going to affect our fiscal health and quality of life. It’s a huge challenge which will have repercussions for decades to come.”
As Ste. Anne’s prepares for future industrial development which will help to draw additional tax revenue and ease the burden on homeowners, Hawa said that the Schluter Systems facility, which is a Leeds certified gold building that is energy and environmentally efficient, is the type of structure that the city is striving to promote as it looks to expand its industrial base.
“These are the types of buildings that will do us proud,” said Hawa. “It will also reflect our character as a city. A building like this brings in about $370,000 in taxes annually. And the nice thing about industrial buildings is there are no services to provide. It’s a win-win situation as they will fit in beautifully with the environment that is Ste. Anne’s. This is sustainable development right here.”
Another priority is the revitalization of Ste. Anne’s village, although it might not be an easy task as several districts on the Island of Montreal are also coping with the economic downturn as more shops close their doors, said Hawa who is also the Vice-President of Montreal’s Schéma urban development committee. “We listened to over 100 presentations from different groups recently and I realized that what we are feeling in the village is no different than what other economic centres are feeling,” said Hawa.
“It’s not just the village that’s affected, but across the island. So we have to ask ourselves, ‘How are we going to overcome that when everybody is feeling the same economic pinch?’” Hawa noted that in addition to the recent cut in Quebec Sales Tax (QST) transfers, the city also has to factor in increased fees to the Montreal agglomeration which could impact tax rates or result in service cuts as it prepares its 2015 budget.
Among her many accomplishments this year, the most notable is the temporary road that was built that allows motorists to access southbound Boulevard des Anciens Combattants at Exit 41 from the Highway 40 service road. Construction will also begin next year on a new T-intersection that will replace the former overpasses at the interchange that were closed almost four years ago and reconnect northbound Boulevard des Anciens Combattants to Chemin Ste. Marie.
Looking back at her first year as mayor, Hawa said she feels challenged and fulfilled. “It’s been a privilege to have people put their faith in me. It also feels like time is running out because there’s so much to do and so little time. I just hope to get everything done within my mandate. I’m lucky because I had previous experience on council so I have an idea of how long things take to get done.”
Hawa, who represented her constituents in the District 6 of the north sector between 2009 and 2013 before being elected mayor last November said her first year has passed by with incredible speed. “One of the things I said to some of the new councillors in the first couple of months is let’s get moving because it’ll be too late to get things done. They didn’t actually understand or grasp what I was trying to say,” said Hawa.
“A year later, they’ve become more aware that it does take time to get things done. You have to hit the ground running as soon as you’re elected and have at least the basics in place in the first two years so you can start seeing the fruits of your labour in the third and fourth years. Four years sounds like a long time, but it really isn’t.”