• James Armstrong

Hudson’s Sandy Beach, wetlands, and conservation plan raise questions for council


PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

The conservation and preservation of the stretch of shoreline and wetlands between Hudson’s Jack Layton Park and Sandy Beach was a hot topic at the September 6 council meeting.

Pro-Mayor Deborah Woodhead’s opening remarks at the regular Hudson Town Council meeting Tuesday, September 6, were intended to allay fears that a beloved area might be lost with the adoption of the new conservation plan.

“A comment was made concerning the possibility of losing Hudson’s Sandy Beach through a land swap deal with a developer,” said Woodhead. “This has not happened, it cannot happen, because the Town of Hudson has obtained a servitude in perpetuity,” she said. “It is in the conservation plan as a wetland and belongs to the town.”

During the question period, resident Diane Piacente said that in 2007, changes were made to the servitude and worried that this created a precedent for changes in the future. Piacente also questioned the ownership of the trails from Jack Layton Park through the waterfront wetlands to Sandy Beach.

Woodhead answered the trails belong to the town and it is very difficult to talk about protecting wetlands without a plan. Piacente pointed out that many towns have put conservation plans in place that prevent any development in fragile wetland areas. “You could be stricter,” she said. “Put in place 30-metre buffer zones instead of 10-metre buffers. Have some teeth because you have the power.”

“I believe that most of us here are property owners, we believe in private property, we believe in democracy and the rule of law – the owner of this property has a notarized agreement with the Town of Hudson to be able to do a project there,” responded Woodhead. “I respect the agreement that was reached in good faith,” she said, adding, “We will do everything we can to save every bit of precious land.”

“Why don’t you hold a referendum and ask the residents of Hudson if they would like you to do everything in your power to purchase Sandy Beach and all the land between it and Jack Layton Park to preserve for everyone to enjoy forever?” asked resident Richard Grinnell.

“The cost of this land is $15 million and this would require a big loan by-law to borrow that money giving residents a tax increase,” said Woodhead. “I don’t believe the (provincial) government would give us the money to buy land that does nothing for the town in terms of revenues,” she said, added that holding a referendum is also an expensive proposition.

Grinnell said the town was proposing the same size of expenditure for an art and culture center in its strategic plan and that there are other avenues for raising the funds. Councillor Ron Goldenberg challenged Grinnell’s claim, asserting the town is not spending $15 million for an arts center. “This has been answered ad nauseum. It was a private project,” said Goldenberg as Grinnell agreed to withdraw the comment. In the end, Woodhead proposed that Grinnell’s idea would be included in the caucus agenda.

Jamie Nichols said the land in question was once inhabited by several different Aboriginal nations and wanted to know if council intended to acknowledge that. He also noted possible evidence of ancient fishing weirs constructed of stone exists in the Sandy Beach/Jack Layton Park area and asked council if an archeological study of the area will be carried out. Council did not give a definitive response.

The recent presentation of the conservation plan with its slide presentation given entirely in French was a cause for concern. “I was sitting at a presentation in a bilingual town and received a unilingual presentation,” said Eva McCartney. “The biologist could speak both languages but was mandated to speak only in French.”

“But she was bilingual,” replied Woodhead.

“Then why was the presentation only in French?” reiterated McCartney adding, “Many people left the room because they could not understand. She went slide by slide and the majority of the conversation was in French.” Woodhead replied questions asked in English were responded to in the same language. “It would be respectful of the English population to have a bilingual presentation,” McCartney rejoined. “Is it possible to have an English presentation?” she asked. “Perhaps, the next one we could find someone more bilingual,” Woodhead answered.

Concerns were also raised about the ballooning legal fees for the town. According to documentation released by council, the net amount for 2016 is $248,821.55. “We are attempting to settle cases out of court, where we can,” said Director General Jean-Pierre Roy. He said several cases have progressed too far to be resolved in this way. Council approved the out of court settlement in the case of union negotiator Judy Sheehan for $23,415.38.

In other business, council approved the loan by-law for $1,500,000 to repave streets, as the voter registration day did not produce enough signatures to kill the by-law. Pine Lake and the broken dam appeared briefly on the agenda as council officially approved a preliminary request to the Ministry of Environment to involve them in discussions of the destiny of the beleaguered lake and dam.

“We have to officially involve the ministry before we do anything to the lake,” said Goldenberg. “So we are starting to work with them in anticipation of doing something further down the road.” When asked by Your Local Journal if council had made any decisions about the future of the lake and the dam, Goldenberg replied in the negative. “The committee came up with six different options but we now have other priorities,” he said, pointing out the town needed to find new sources of potable water and pave the roads.

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