• John Jantak

Ste. Anne’s Braerob restoration stalls after council majority rejects capital expenditure


YLJ FILE PHOTO/JOHN JANTAK

Ste. Anne de Bellevue Mayor Paola Hawa said a decision by a majority of councillors to reject a proposal to set aside $150,000 for the purchase of the historic Braerob farmhouse in the city’s northern district as part its triennial capital works program for 2016 could put the entire proposed eco-territory conservation area at risk for possible development.

A motion to set aside $150,000 to purchase land around the historic Braerob farmhouse that was presented by Ste. Anne de Bellevue Mayor Paola Hawa was rejected by a majority of councillors during a special public information session that was held to adopt the city’s triennial capital works program on March 21.

Councillors Francis Juneau, Dan Boyer, Yvan Labelle and Michel Boudreault voted against the motion, while Councillors Dana Chevalier, Ryan Young and Mayor Hawa voted for its adoption.

Resident Gordon Yee, who praised council for adopting an overall excellent expenditure program for 2016, 2017 and 2018 when he raised issues in question period, expressed concern about the positions held by the councillors who voted against Hawa’s proposal.

Yee said that preserving and protecting the former farmhouse and surrounding lands has been an important cornerstone of determining the city’s eventual development versus conservation initiatives, and has been a significant central component of its urban planning strategy within the past decade.

“Braerob has been on several PPUs (Programme particulier d'urbanisme) for over 10 years and it always seemed to be a central point to any development of the community in the northern part of the city. After spending $30,000 last year, can I ask what came out of that study that may have swayed council from pursuing anything further?” asked Yee referring to the city urban plan that was presented in May 2015.

Councillor Labelle replied that so far, there hasn’t been a suitable project submitted that would make financial sense to proceed with preserving the building. “If a good project comes along and makes sense financially, we will absolutely look at it, but right now the project that was presented in 2015 is not suitable,” said Labelle

The decision not to allocate funds this year to purchase the farmhouse threatens the city’s vision of having the building serve as the entrance point to its proposed eco-territory conservation area and could put the entire area at risk for possible development, said Hawa.

It also means that the city is no longer eligible to apply for up to $1.7 million in possible grants to upgrade the structure and purchase additional land to the east of Braerob, Hawa added.

“This corridor not only is needed to maintain biodiversity, but also because this is where the deer cross to go and eat. And it’s also what Montreal had promised to add to the eco-territory if we purchased Braerob. We’re not talking millions here. I’m very disappointed,” said Hawa.

She also questioned the judgement of the four councillors for voting down the Braerob proposal, saying the same coalition of councillors who voted against it, also voted in favour of abolishing the code of ethics for citizen volunteers on the city’s advisory committees at the last council meeting in mid-March. Hawa said she plans to veto the resolution at the next regular council meeting in April.

“I’m starting to see a trend here of questionable judgement,” said Hawa. “In the last week, this block of four council members removed the ethics requirement for the urbanism committee which was my biggest concern. And this week, they removed a $1.7 million investment in the eco-territory. I just think that recent decisions have reflected a lack of judgement. How are we now going to set ourselves apart from the other cities?”

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