• John Jantak

New Kirkland residential development gets council approval

PHOTO BY RODNEY LORICA

Despite a 400-signature petition presented at the December 7 council meeting, Kirkland Mayor Michel Gibson said the new residential development on the site of the former Merck pharmaceutical facility on Highway 40 will bring needed additional taxation revenue to the town the project was approved by council vote.

The City of Kirkland is proceeding with a major development project in the Lacey Green area after municipal councillors voted five to three in favour of rezoning a major swath of land from industrial to residential use during the Monday evening council meeting, December 7.

The change was made despite criticism from some of the over 75 residents who crowded into the council chamber to voice their disapproval during question period, saying council should have done more to inform residents about the full scope of the project.

Mayor Michel Gibson read a statement aloud in both English and French before the start of the meeting asking opponents and proponents of the development to maintain a level of civility during question period.

Gibson then read from another prepared statement during the second reading of the rezoning motion during the council meeting, saying the city had thoroughly reviewed all options available regarding future use of the site which formerly housed the Merck pharmaceutical facility and determined the 50-acre site would be best suited for residential development.

The proposed project, called Quartier Evolution, would create an 800-unit, high-density residential redevelopment that will feature multi-storey condos, stacked townhouses, and townhouses that would be built between the highway service road and Brunswick Blvd., west of St. John’s Blvd.

“It brings many benefits to our community by preserving our quality of life, guaranteeing a reasonable level of traffic around the site, allowing for an eco-friendly development, addressing green needs and providing additional revenue for the city,” said Gibson.

“It must first be understood that should the zoning of the site remain industrial, it will be developed by the property owner and the city will have no say in the project and there will be no public consultation. That is a reality we have to live with,” Gibson added.

Gibson said another industrial project had been considered that would have accommodated 4,700 workers. If that project materialized, the grassy tract of land on Brunswick Boulevard, which acts as a buffer, would have been transformed into an enormous parking lot creating major traffic congestion during morning and evening rush hours.

Kirkland has also had to contend with a substantial decline in industrial tax revenues as a result of the closure of the Merck facility three years ago and the residential project will help to generate almost $7 million in residential taxes when all phases are completed by 2022.

Gibson added that the development would help to entice homebuyers to move back to Kirkland and it would also give its senior population a much needed option to downgrade from their current houses and move into more affordable condo units.

The city is also obligated to adhere to provincial and Montreal Metropolitan Community (CMM) requirements regarding density and green spaces in accordance with Schema development requirements.

Many residents were not swayed by Gibson’s presentation and criticized council for pushing forward with the project without consulting with area residents first or conducting a thorough assessment of future traffic issues and how the development will affect neighbouring residents.

A petition with over 400 signatures was presented before the start of the meeting asking council not to proceed with the adoption of the rezoning motion, but it did not keep the majority of councillors from voting in favour of the motion’s adoption.

Councillors John Morson, André Allard, Paul Dufort, Brian Swinburne and Luciano Piciacchia voted for the motion and agreed the residential project is the best option for the city.

Councillors Domenico Zito and Michael Brown voted against the motion citing traffic issues, although Zito said it still was possible to work out some sort of compromise. Councillor Tony Di Gennaro abstained from voting saying that because a family member is in the project, it could have indicated a conflict of interest.

Gibson said it’s possible that council will consider holding a registry signing at a future date and if enough signatures are collected, the town could hold a referendum which would allow residents in the area cast a vote for or against the project.

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