Plan to protect Rigaud Mountain criticized by property owners
PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG
Mr. Séguin, one of the 26 property owners on Rigaud Mountain affected by the construction prohibition, addresses Director General Chantal Lemieux on the proposed plan for protecting the mountain.
Twenty-six privately owned properties on Rigaud Mountain have been designated as “non-developable land” by the interim control measures project being developed by the Town of Rigaud and the Municipalité Régionale de Comté de Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS) to protect Rigaud Mountain.
The news brought some angry and emotional responses from several of the affected owners who attended the second information meeting held Thursday, June 2, at the community centre in Rigaud.
“How do I oppose this project?” asked one of the property owners of Assistant Director General for the MRC-VS Raymond Malo who said the project has to be approved by the provincial government before it becomes law. Lawyer and biologist Jean-François Girard expressed the opinion that there would be appointed in the legal process at that time where opposition could be conveyed.
The intention is to adopt the interim development plan for the mountain from June 22, 2016 to 2020 giving the MRC and Rigaud time to deal with new rules for urban development and decision-making bodies involved.
The information session, presented by urban planning consultant Hélène Doyon, provided more details than the first meeting held in April. An assessment of the ecological value of the mountain has been developed by Groupe Hémisphère, from existing studies carried out by the Centre de données sur le patrimoine naturel du Québec (CDPNQ) and the Ministère des Ressources naturelles (MRN). Ten criteria were used to determine five ecological classifications applicable to the mountain: very weak or weak, average, high and very high.
The resulting colour-coded map of the territory, with red indicating very high ecological value, dark green a high value, light green an average value and white weak or very weak, illustrated how one property could have more than one value.
Blue shaded areas on the map indicate the 26 properties where construction is prohibited.
New construction and expansion will be allowed under certain conditions in areas with a value of very weak, weak and average. In areas evaluated as high, or very high, major buildings are prohibited.
Other prohibitions for the mountain include a new riding school, horse stables, logging, and wood cutting for commercial or personal purposes such as cutting and selling firewood.
The firewood and tree-cutting prohibition drew some criticism from several residents. “I have spent hundreds of dollars to hire a professional forestry engineer to evaluate the trees on my land,” claimed one property owner pointing out that the responsible maintenance of a forest requires tree cutting. Others pointed out that they have been paying property taxes for years and now see little hope for a return on their investment.
According to the presentation, the new regulations will not have a negative impact on land values in areas where construction is permissible. On the other hand, the 26 properties where construction is no longer permitted will remain at their assessed municipal tax value at the end of March 2016. “Each of the 26 property owners will be contacted by the town,” said Doyon several times.
“We will be meeting with the landowners individually starting next week,” said Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. in an interview Wednesday, June 8, referring to the 26 properties affected by the total construction ban. “If any of them wish to oppose the project, then they will be informed about the process at that time,” he added.
“Once we meet with the landowners, we will have a better idea of the size of the project,” said Gruenwald Jr. regarding the concerns about the lack of a budget for the project. “Once we know what all the numbers and figures are, we will have another information meeting,” he concluded.
He pointed out that the project will likely involve the federal, provincial, county, and municipal levels of government. “On Monday, June 13, there will be a closed door meeting with the towns of Rigaud, Trés-Saint-Rédempteur and Sainte-Marthe to see if we can work on this project together,” he said. “We are going step-by-step to avoid having the plan fall apart the way it did in 1993. We are not doing this because it is easy,” he added.
“We have to respect the environment of the mountain to protect it, as well as respect the property owners and the developers,” said Gruenwald Jr. “It is a project that comes from all of us,” he added emphasizing that the intent is to have a plan that will preserve the mountain now and in the future.