• John Jantak

Hudson conservation plan presentation goes astray as citizens raise other concerns


PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

Hudson residents posed myriad questions at the August 23 preliminary environmental conservation plan information meeting ranging from urban development to the unilingual francophone aspect of the presentation.

A public information meeting that was held to discuss Hudson’s preliminary environmental conservation plan on Tuesday evening August 23 was sidelined after some of the 75 residents present used the forum to discuss the town’s future urban development plans.

The Preliminary Wetlands and Natural Environments Conservation Action Plan was presented by the CIMA Experts/Advisors/Biologists team that was mandated by the town to conduct an exhaustive study on the town’s remaining green spaces and wetlands to determine their biodiversity aspect and whether they are significant enough to be preserved entirely.

The CIMA team explained the specific criteria used to conduct their study which included determining the importance of which wetlands should be preserved including the different types of flora and fauna, and wildlife species that are present.

If certain areas are deemed acceptable for development, guidelines set by the provincial environment ministry would require the developer to minimize the loss of wetlands and to provide compensation based on the assessment of the ecological value of the wetlands destroyed. An environmental corridor would also have to be maintained to preserve the natural surroundings between developments.

While people’s initial comments and questions revolved around the environmental aspect of the conservation plan, some residents used the forum to voice urban planning concerns.

One resident demanded the proposed construction along a portion of Sandy Beach be stopped and that the town should consider preserving the entire beach, a request that was dismissed by town officials as impractical.

A municipal official replied that the town held a referendum in 2001 and citizens voted in favour of development. As a result, the owner ceded a portion of the beach to the town which is why residents are allowed to access a portion of the waterfront.

Resident Constance Middleton-Hope chastised the members of the committee for speaking exclusively in French throughout the presentation and most of question period. “I’m going to talk in English,” she told the panel. “I understand it fully in French and I can speak the language but I also think that there are people here who speak English who are concerned about not understanding everything.”

Middleton-Hope then used the contentious topic of high-density development to ask whether the town was planning a large development in the Como Gardens area. When told there was nothing planned, she replied, “Good, because I would have stood in front of the street, chained if necessary, to prevent any construction.” Her response drew a large round of applause from the audience.

“I’ve lived 63 years in this town. I’ve admired it and I feel that development is important to attract younger people. On the other hand we have to be very careful of what we are historically, socially, and psychologically. I rely on you as a town council to do that,” said Middleton-Hope.

A plea was made by another resident for Hudson to impose a moratorium on all new projects that haven’t yet been surveyed until January 1, 2018, to give the town time to assess how the developments will impact the community as a whole.

Concern was expressed that as Hudson continues to develop and more people move in, the town’s existing road infrastructure which is already strained will be unable to accommodate the additional volume of traffic and that more stress will be placed on the aquifer water system.

Resident Jamie Nicholls told Your Local Journal that while it was a good first step, there were missing elements in the presentation. “Since 2013, we have the biodiversity convention that Quebec has signed onto,” said Nicholls.

“The (environment) ministry seems to feel that the 2008 report was good enough but having worked with conservation biologists I know the aim wasn’t to measure biodiversity, it was to measure the character of wetlands; two entirely different things,” Nicholls said.

The town’s conservation plan could also run into problems because of a land claim that is currently being pursued by the Anishinaabe Aboriginal peoples for the entire Ottawa River water shed that the town has to consider, according to Nicholls.

“It involves the Algonquin nations’ Nipissing peoples,” said Nicholls. “They were the ones that traditionally occupied the sides of the rivers here. Now they have a claim and have put the federal government on notice since 2014. Article 35 of the constitution says there’s a duty to consult so the town council would have to consult with the first nations given that it’s their traditional territory.”

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