Protection and responsible development on Rigaud Mountain
YLJ FILE PHOTO/CARMEN MARIE FABIO
A recent three-month moratorium issued by the Town of Rigaud and the MRC Vaudreuil-Soulanges regarding any development of properties on Rigaud Mountain was the subject of a meeting held Monday, April 25.
Approximately 200 residents attended the meeting chaired by Director General (DG) Chantal Lemieux to hear presentations concerning the history of development on the mountain, the importance of the mountain locally and regionally for its environment, biodiversity, and economic development elements.
As explained by Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr., the town wants to protect the existing forest, diverse plant and animal species, and its potential as an eco-tourist recreational area. Accordingly, the town’s Strategic Development Plan for 2010 -2020 indicates the need for a master plan to protect Mont Rigaud.
Raymond Malo, Deputy Director General for the Municipalité Régionale de Comté de Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC VS) briefly outlined the involvement of the MRC in the planning and development of the mountain. In1980, a recreational study was followed by a 1991 land-use planning grant of $25,000 to the MRC-VS Land Use Development Plan of 2004.
Rigaud’s Urban Planning Director Catherine Coulombe described the mountain as an exceptional resource that needs to be preserved. She said it’s a White Zone designating it as agricultural land and that some landowners want to conserve and others want to develop various projects.
According to Hélène Doyon from Urbaniste-Conseil Inc., Mont Rigaud is a large part of the green corridor that passes from the border between Québec and Ontario across the MRC-VS to Vaudreuil-Dorion. She noted that most of the mountain, about 98 per cent, is privately held by 1,000 owners. Doyon explained that one of the goals in protecting the mountain is to preserve an uninterrupted canopy of forest. She explained that this aspect plays a crucial role in maintaining the biodiversity below the canopy. She said the linear and staggered lines of development that have taken place have fragmented the forest canopy creating a negative impact on the environment it protects.
“Plans for protecting the environmental elements of this jewel in the region were already in place,” said MRC-VS Communications Advisor Simon Richard. “The City of Rigaud wanted to go a step further in protecting Mont Rigaud. At the MRC, we’re currently revising our next regional territorial planning, and we took that opportunity to implement the Règlement de contrôle intérimaire (RCI) which freezes the land for 90 days.”
Richard said the interim measure gives the MRC time to go more in-depth with its vision for the mountain. “No firm decision have yet been made but the orientation is to go further in protecting the environment,” he said.
The current development moratorium will end on June 22, 2016. Meanwhile, the town council, in conjunction with the MRC-VS, intends to create longer-term regulations that will come into effect as of that date. New land development, new construction, tree cutting, and land registry requests are on hold until June 22.
There are some exceptions to the rule including repair and maintenance of existing buildings, the expansion of an existing residence with certain restrictions, and work that needs to be done according to the law such as installing a septic system. The DG cautioned it would be a good idea to verify any projects with town before initiating them.
The DG said a meeting with the property owners that are directly affected by any specific development plan would take place before June 22.
Reaction from the audience was predominantly positive with individuals expressing their support for preserving the mountain. It was 8-year-old Marie Chevalier who put into words the feelings of many in the room. “We must protect the trees because there are nests and there are animals that live in the forest. If we hurt the forest, it is us that we hurt.”
“We realized that something needs to be done to protect the mountain,” said the mayor adding that the rights of property owners on the mountain have to be respected.