Rigaud Mountain’s future up for discussion at local council meeting
PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG
St. Lazare resident David Hill’s petition to save Rigaud Mountain was a topic for discussion at Monday evening’s regular town council meeting.
While not on the official meeting agenda, the preservation and protection of Rigaud Mountain became a topic of discussion at the Monday, February 8 town council meeting. David Hill, a resident of St. Lazare, took the opportunity during the first question period to present a petition that he has been recently circulating on social media to the mayor and council. “I recently started a petition to save Rigaud Mountain. I have been enjoying this area for many years… and have noticed that the natural habitat is being encroached upon progressively,” said Hill. He added that he wanted to see how much interest there was in saving the mountain from future development.
“I am very happy to hear that people outside of Rigaud are preoccupied with the wellbeing of our mountain because it is our jewel, it is part of our bank account,” responded Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. He explained that the only construction currently allowed on the mountain is on lots that are serviced by previously constructed roads. “At the present time, there is no new development on the mountain of Rigaud,” said the mayor. In reference to Hill’s petition, Gruenwald said, “I don’t know where this preoccupation comes from,” re-emphasizing that there is no new development on the mountain. “The elected people of Rigaud do have a long range plan for preservation of the mountain and I hope that what you have done hasn’t scuttled it,” said Gruenwald Jr. adding that the council had not yet gone public with the plan. “We are taking this very seriously and we started this about two years ago,” the mayor said. “We have put in place a lot of mechanisms but it takes a lot of time,” he said noting that there are certain issues that need to be discussed at the right time.
Hill said that when looking at a map of the area, Rigaud Mountain appears to be the last major forested area in the region. “I have to tell you, that this petition took off like wildfire and really resonates with people.” He added that within five days the petition garnered 2400 signatures from people around the world.
“Does Rigaud have a conservation plan and what does the end game look like for development on the mountain?” he asked, noting it is usually a question of money.
“All the trails on the mountain and any attempts at preservation are paid for by the people of Rigaud,” replied Gruenwald adding that the trails are open for public use and people are welcome to use them as long as they observe the regulations for use. “Let me assure you that to preserve the mountain, there needs to be certain areas of development around the mountain to produce the funds to preserve the mountain,” he continued. The mayor extended an invitation to Hill to meet with him and discuss the possibilities of a strategic plan.
When asked by Your Local Journal following the meeting why he started the petition at this particular time, he responded that conserving the wilderness areas of Rigaud Mountain had been on his mind for some time. “It has the last intact expanse of forest close to Montreal,” he said. His hope is to create interest at various levels of government. “Ideally, I would like to see development on the mountain stopped,” Hill explained. “It means that there would have to be a new approach to the acquisition of property so that land owners would be fairly compensated.” Hill sees this happening as a project that extends beyond the municipal government to include the provincial and federal levels. “It has to be a multi-tiered approach to conservation,” he said.
Other council news
In other business, council authorized the creation of two administrative positions: a Director of Communications and Community Relations and a Director of Economic Development.
An offer to purchase part of a lot of land belonging to the Government of Canada as part of the project to extend Boulevard Carmen to Chemin de la Mairie was also approved by council at a cost of $29 per square meter giving a total expenditure of $126,648.
A series of calls for tender were authorized for the planning of a cycling trail, the purchase of a service truck for public works, independent auditors for 2016 through 2018, and the emptying of septic tanks from 2017 to 2020.
The new fire hall project to be constructed near the former tourist center at Exit 9 on Highway 40, 100 Saint Jean Baptiste Street East, took a step forward as council authorized changes to lot lines and a minor derogation regarding the height of the new building. The 14-meter tower required for drying the hoses exceeds the official municipal height limit by several meters. “All fire stations have these towers,” the mayor said.