Ste. Anne’s resident asked to register as lobbyist before speaking at council meetings
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
Mayor Paola Hawa said council is united in its stance to maintain the 85 per cent of land it set aside for preservation adjacent to the L’Anse à l’Orme nature reserve as part of its revised urban development plan that was adopted in 2015.
Mayor Paola Hawa took the unusual step during question period at the Monday evening council meeting March 13 to advise resident Michel Belleau that he should declare himself as a lobbyist before addressing council at future meetings.
Hawa alleges Belleau is acting as a spokesperson for the promoters of a proposed new residential development project in the northern district. “I finally decided it was time to ask him to register as a lobbyist,” Hawa told Your Local Journal.
“I think his actions have been clear in the past two years that he is the spokesperson for the promoters at the council meetings. It is time that he plays legally by the rules and not pretend he’s just another citizen,” said Hawa.
Hawa said there were several instances where information from correspondence that occurred between the city and the promoters came to light publicly at council meetings through Belleau. She added the only way he could have had access to the information in the correspondence is because the promoter gave it to him.
Lobbying for the residents
Belleau denied Hawa’s allegations saying he has no affiliation with the developers and that he is lobbying for the residents by asking council tough questions about the project that no one wants to answer. “She is completely wrong and in election mode,” he said. “I’m the one who is asking very precise and very hard questions and she doesn’t like that.”
The issue involves three developers under the group name Développement Immoblier Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue (DISAB) who have threatened legal action against the city if revisions aren’t made to the city’s current PPU that limits the group’s development of 14 acres of land that was purchased in 2012 in good faith, to only two acres currently because of changes made to the city’s Urban Development Plan (PPU) in 2015.
The city contends it has the legal right to protect its land reserves from development because of the environmental significance of the land in question located adjacent to the L’Anse à l’Orme nature reserve, whereas the DISAB website contends it is has little environmental value.
DISAB also claims that if the PPU remains unchanged, taxpayers could be financially liable for a possible $30 million settlement against the city for the unused land which would raise property taxes by over 50 per cent. Hawa dismissed the threat as disinformation and a scare-mongering tactic used by the promoters.
Belleau is also concerned about the legal costs the city will have to absorb to fight a potential lawsuit and said council should at least have discussions with the developers to see if some sort of compromise could be reached rather than going to court.
“Why don’t they sit down with the promoters, discuss and negotiate with them. We don’t want to have to pay up to 50 per cent more on our property taxes. As a citizen, I’m promoting the best interests of the citizens and not the promoter,” said Belleau.
The issue has unified a council that was recently at odds with each other on certain issues such as the demolition last December of the old hose tower that sat atop city hall. The demolition was supported by four councillors and opposed by the other two, as well as Mayor Hawa.
Hawa said despite personal differences in the past, all six councillors and the mayor will not budge from their position to preserve 85 per cent of the land proposed for development. “We are united in our stand on this issue. We are not removing the land protection provision. We’re just not doing it,” she said.