Mayor Deschênes strives to keep agricultural heritage while balancing development needs
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
Danie Deschênes, Mayor of Notre Dame de l’Îe Perrot, is striving to find the right balance to maintain its agricultural heritage while encouraging development to generate additional revenue for the town.
Danie Deschênes, who is beginning her 11th month as Mayor of Notre Dame de l’Île Perrot, is confident about the role that she and the six Option Citoyens municipal councillors are making in regards to the preservation of the town’s agricultural heritage while trying to make the right choices when it comes to development needs.
The former District 1 councillor won the mayoral seat last June, receiving just over 58 per cent of the vote running under the Option Citoyens banner. Deschênes replaced former Mayor Marie-Claude Nichols who resigned in April 2014 after being elected provincial Liberal Member of the National Assembly (MNA) for Vaudreuil.
“I love the job,” Deschênes told Your Local Journal during an interview at her city hall office on Monday, March 30. “Having a direct relationship with the citizens is so interesting. As mayor, the job is a lot more demanding than I expected. “The learning curve was important so it took a bit of time to learn about all the on-going projects,” Deschênes added. “In terms of the day-to-day operation of the town, it’s all about continuity. In a sense, there was nothing really new since I was already involved with most of the files as a councillor. It’s more about getting to know the people who are involved in every single matter.”
One of the challenges she faces is finding the right balance between preserving the town’s farming community with the need to generate more revenue from future development projects. “It is a challenge because part of the town would like us to grow while most of the citizens do not wish that,” said Deschênes. “We’re 70 per cent agricultural and we need to respect that, but there are some spaces that might work better as developed areas.”
She says one area that could be well suited for residential development is a section of Don Quichotte Boulevard just south of Rue de Provence, a wooded area of land that houses a Hydro- Québec facility on the west side of the boulevard. “We need to do something to make the entrance to the city nicer,” said Deschênes. “When you come into Notre Dame, you don’t feel like you’re coming into the most beautiful city on the island. This is one example of an area that could be developed, but I’m not sure if it will pass.
“At the end of the day, we need revenue also,” Deschênes added. “Being in the mayor’s seat now, I understand the importance of bringing new development into the city. Otherwise we won’t be able to offer more services like parks.”
Another area where Deschênes would like to see development resume is in the Les Palissades de l’Anse au Sable luxury home project in the western sector of the town, near Perrot and St. Joseph Boulevards. Development was halted almost two years ago after it was determined the area was prone to landslides. The town is awaiting provincial financial assistance so it can begin work to stabilize the area along the shoreline.
“We asked the provincial government to give us a hand financially and we were recently approved as a priority for repairs,” said Deschênes. “We went to Quebec City and explained how important it is because at this point nobody can build new houses or sell their properties. It’s very hard for the residents and it’s a priority for the council to have this resolved as soon as possible.
“All we need now is to get approval from the Minister of Finance,” Deschênes added. “We’re expecting news hopefully by June. For us it’s an urgent matter. It’s not urgent in terms of security because there is no imminent landslide risk, but it’s urgent to allow development to continue. We’re losing a very important source of revenue and so are people who have financial interests.”
Another source of revenue for the town could come from the Alex Burrows sports complex that has been in the proposal stage for the past two years. A legal dispute by the Burrows consortium and the Société d’Exploitation Sports Sherbrooke (SESS) team managed by President Jocelyn Thibault who are involved in building a sports complex in neighbouring Pincourt, have put both projects on hold.
“What is happening in Pincourt is a complicated matter, but to have Alex Burrows as a private partner here is great news,” said Deschênes. “We need an arena whether it’s in Pincourt or Notre Dame and it needs to happen sooner than later.” Deschênes said the matter is not a feud between both municipalities. “Absolutely not. It’s a private project. The Alex Burrows group asked if we would support their project and we will, but it stops there. We’re not getting involved financially. I think our taxpayers will not want to get involved in the arena project.”
Unlike the SESS project that will focus almost exclusively on hockey, the Alex Burrows sports complex will serve 12 different sports options, including hockey and soccer. “It’s a major project and I’m hopeful they’ll be able make it,” said Deschênes. “I think we have enough hockey players and skaters to accommodate both arenas if one day it happens. I don’t see a problem with that.” The town will also house the new indoor swimming pool which will be built on Forest Avenue just west of Don Quichotte Boulevard.
The project was proposed by the Régie des équipements de l’Île Perrot (RELIP) and will also accommodate residents from Pincourt and L’Île Perrot. “We expect to receive news within the next few weeks,” said Deschênes . “There is enough demand from the island’s residents. The nearest facility is located at John Abbott College in Ste. Anne de Bellevue and is always full. The new pool, when completed, should be busy days and nights and weekends, so it will be great.”
On the issue of a possible amalgamation with L’Île Perrot, Pincourt and Terrasse-Vaudreuil to form a one-island municipality, Deschênes said she prefers to maintain the status quo. “We’re not interested,” said Deschênes. “Historically, Notre Dame was always what it is today, an agricultural farming community. The wish is not to build our land. We understand the other three cities are almost at their maximum capacity. The idea to have one administration is not good for Notre Dame.
“Specifically in terms of taxes, we have the lowest rate on the island,” Deschênes added. “We don’t want to be paying for the other cities. Notre Dame is well managed, healthy financially and there’s no reason why we should spend so much money to merge four administrations into one. We want to keep things as they are. I think the other three cities would gain more than we would.”