Mayor dogged by questions as tempers flare in Beaconsfield
PHOTO BY STEPHANIE O'HANLEY
Beaconsfield dog owner Carl Dexter asks permission to make a dog park-related comment rather than a question after Mayor Georges Bourelle says he is no longer taking questions about dogs during question period.
The start of Beaconsfield’s July 11 council meeting included a feel-good story about an “animal hero” who rescued a baby raccoon from a recycling truck. But soon after Director General Patrice Boileau presented the city’s vision for a new 150,000 square foot dog park in the Luger Triangle bordering Angell Woods, the mood soured.
In June council voted to put out a call for public tender for a dog park that includes a football field-and-a-half size dog run at Luger Triangle, the city’s solution to complaints from residents about dogs running loose at the site, heightened by media reports of pit bull attacks in other parts of Quebec. Though for years dog owners were reportedly never ticketed, since July 1, anyone walking their dog off leash in Beaconsfield’s portion of the Luger Triangle risks fines of close to $150 for a first offence.
“For some people it (the dog park project) may have come out of the blue but that’s been something we’ve been talking (about) for two years,” Boileau said.
He said the dog park, located on former commercial land donated to the city by Mario Grilli, will include a larger park of at least 130,000 square feet and a smaller dog run of about 25,000 square feet. The eastern side of the dog park will incorporate an existing path and 75 trees the city planted with TD Bank in 2014, and while most of the park will have double gates and be fenced in, there won’t be any gates in its northern section, Boileau said. An existing parking lot used by Beaurepaire train station commuters makes it possible for people to park and use the dog run.
“We tried as hard as possible (to) keep the pathway for pedestrians to walk, not cut trees and hopefully it will be within an acceptable cost,” Boileau said.
But before the meeting’s official question period began, dog owners called out questions from their seats. Along with questions about whether the path is included in the price and concerns about parking, a woman asked about the cost, which Boileau said would be less than $70,000.
“So $70,000 to install a dog run, how about if you were to put a pedestrian-enclosed fence walkway through the site?”
“The dogs would be off leash?” Boileau asked.
“Correct,” the woman answered.
“I’m sorry, that would be against the by-law,” Boileau replied.
The meeting included several heated exchanges between Beaconsfield dog owners and the mayor in particular, as council argued it has to balance the needs of dog owners with those of other citizens. At one point Mayor Georges Bourelle said he would no longer take questions related to dogs and when another was asked, Bourelle threatened to remove residents from the room if they didn’t behave.
As Mayor Bourelle called for the start of the official question period, a woman asked why the city doesn’t follow Baie d’Urfé’s example and have two by-laws, so that during certain hours dogs are allowed to run free. When Bourelle replied that the city will not change its existing by-law, the woman said, “I’d like to know why.”
“Because, that’s the by-law, it’s been there for a long time,” Bourelle replied. “We are liable for a lawsuit should a dog bite someone in that area. We'll continue to apply it until the dog park is there."
Councillor Peggy Alexopoulos said the city started enforcing its leash by-law in the Luger Triangle, “because the phone calls had been getting more and more frequent with all the pit bull attacks and all the media hype about it.”
“Pit bull attacks?” a woman interrupted. “Here in the West Island, in Beaconsfield? I don’t believe so, I have not heard of one.”
“This is a most reasonable city in terms of treatment of animals,” Mayor Bourelle said. “It was!” people shouted. He added, “...we have a by-law, we’re going to apply it, we’re going to have a dog park, and if you don’t like it, just go.”
In spite of Mayor Bourelle’s comment, more dog-related questions were asked at question period. After dog owner Carl Dexter made a comment at the end of question period, DG Boileau offered Dexter his business card, inviting him to get in touch with any ideas or recommendations for the dog park.
As council voted unanimously to award G. Daviault Ltée a $68,755.05 contract to install a fence for the dog park, dog owners gathered on the sidewalk outside town hall.
“They haven’t built their fence but they’re ticketing people,” said Lorie Marcotte.
“This attitude is the first time I’ve seen him (Mayor Bourelle) like that,” said Adriana Flores, who participated in question period. “He’s not even listening to us,” echoed Véronique Beniak, who also asked a question.
“We’re a little community, Beaconsfield,” Beniak said, adding “It’s not over, I’m writing him.”