Chaline Valley residents pressure council to act on landslide issue
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
St. Lazare resident Stéphane Robin listens to Mayor Robert Grimaudo’s response regarding the Chaline Valley landslide issue during question period at the Tuesday evening council meeting.
The landslide issue in St. Lazare’s Chaline Valley and the town’s proposal to proceed with its new city hall building at a tentative cost of $10 million dominated question period during the Tuesday evening council meeting, January 12.
Resident Stéphane Robin grilled Mayor Robert Grimaudo and the six councillors for their apparent inability to do anything to help homeowners in the interim while the town awaits word from the provincial Ministry of Public Security regarding a subsidy that would enable work to begin to stabilize the land.
Robin said the landslide issue, which has dominated the lives Chaline Valley residents for more than five years now, has had a double negative effect on homeowners because not only are many residents unable to sell their houses, the market value of Robin’s home alone has decreased in value by $60,000 from its current municipal evaluation.
The decline in the market value of Robin’s home means there should also be a reduction in his municipal property tax valuation role, he told council. Grimaudo replied that the valuation roles are determined by the Municipalité Régionale de Comté (MRC) de Vaudreuil-Soulanges and that Robin should approach the MRC to request a readjustment.
Robin also asked council why they were reluctant to provide any kind of assistance to Chaline Valley residents when several Quebec municipalities reportedly provide financial aid to residents to help stabilize foundations.
Grimaudo replied that he was unaware of any financial incentives provided by other municipalities and maintained the town has to wait until it receives provincial government subsidies before it proceeds with any type of stabilization work. He added that a topographical analysis and survey conducted by the provincial government indicated there was “...no imminent danger of a landslide.”
The explanation didn’t sit well with Robin, who replied that council should consider putting the city hall project on hold to instead help people with real needs. “I’d like you to put yourself in our situation so you can really understand how we feel,” Robin told Grimaudo.
Robin added he felt that council was not taking the resident’s ongoing predicament seriously and accused council of “laughing at us.”
Grimaudo replied the town was not laughing at the residents and are tackling the Chaline Valley situation in a serious and responsible manner. “We are not laughing at you, that I guarantee you. The construction of the houses were done, and I’m not saying they’re well-built or not, but they were built a certain way.”
As an example, Grimaudo referred to the new H-300 residential project on Chemin Ste. Angelique near Boulevard Cité des Jeunes, where the developer added pilings to secure the foundations as a way to mitigate possible problems in the future.
Resident Joanne Ackland told council that they should take responsibility for issuing construction permits to build in an area that is prone to landslides when residential development first started in Chaline Valley.
She referred to a provincial government document titled Planning and Development Powers in Quebec, published in June 2010 by the province’s ministry of Affaires municipales, région et occupation du térritoire, specifically quoting a section on urban planning as the basis for her request.
Ackland read aloud that, “‘The council of the municipality must accept complete responsibility for the actions of its designated officials. The municipal council can be held responsible for the errors of the officer in charge for issuing permits and certificates.’ Are you not responsible? I think you’re responsible.”
When District 2 Councillor Pamela Tremblay explained that a previous municipal official had only issued the construction permits, Ackland retorted, “He’s the one who’s at fault. He gave permits for land that is risky. Isn’t he the one who’s responsible?”
“We would have to put in a program that would compensate families in the slide zone,” said Grimaudo. “Everything can be looked at; no doubt about it and we will continue researching possibilities.”