Hudson residents continue to pressure council on Sandy Beach preservation
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
Hudson resident Rodney Birrell addresses council during question period regarding the future of Sandy Beach at the Monday evening council meeting.
The future of Hudson’s Sandy Beach dominated question period at the Monday evening council meeting on March 6 as several residents expressed their concerns about the possibility of losing a significant portion of what many consider to be an iconic and important environmental feature of the community.
The feedback comes three weeks after urban consultant and lobbyist Marc Perreault made a presentation regarding the full scope of the Pine Beach project during a public information meeting on behalf of the owner, Hans-Karl Muhlegg, president of Nicanco Holdings Inc.
“We’re considering destroying one of the major assets of the municipality. I don’t think that makes any sense,” said Rodney Birrell, whose sentiments were echoed by several other residents when they voiced their concerns to Mayor Ed Prévost and the five sitting councillors.
“We have a town with a unique local and regional asset and we have a developer who bought the land in good faith and deserves the opportunity to develop it in a way that is acceptable and in the interest of everybody,” said Birrell. I don’t see why it’s essential that 106 residential units be scattered across the middle when you’ll get the same density by concentrating them all in the east end.”
Birrell added that 200 units being proposed on west end of the site could also be relocated to the east side of the property which would leave the central area undisturbed. He also suggested that council consider purchasing the central part of Sandy Beach, although Birrell added that he wasn’t sure if it was practical.
“We don’t have any say in the matter but we can discuss it with him,” said Prévost. Birrell countered by saying, “You have some say because you’re the council and have the right to say what kind of development you’d like to have in Hudson.”
While an online petition garnered more than 500 signatures, council dismissed a suggestion that a referendum be held based on the number of petition signatories to determine the final scope of the development project.
“The referendum question is in my personal view biased and not valid,” said District 2 Councillor Ron Goldenberg. “I never said we’re going to hold a referendum if we get 500 signatures. It was a number that was thrown out. It was never agreed to by anybody. The idea of the petition was great because it made us very aware there are strong feelings about it and there are things that have to be considered.”
Goldenberg added the petition didn’t mention the $15 million it would cost the town to acquire the land and that people can still have the same access to the beach. “If those facts were on the page I think the results of the petition would have been much different,” said Goldenberg. “We have to work with the developer who happens to hold most of the cards. Our intent is to work with him to make the best arrangement.”
Birrell replied that the mayor and council have a choice as being remembered as working for reasonable accommodation or ruining one of the key strategic natural benefits of the town. “It’s a major asset for the whole region and I think we should do everything we can to keep it with respect to the developer who owns the land,” he said.
“Every square inch of Hudson is beautiful and we want to preserve it as best as we can,” said Goldenberg. “I think everybody in this room agrees that there are practicalities to be considered. We have to do the best we can given the current situation and that’s what we hope to do.”