Petition for a referendum on purchasing Sandy Beach up for discussion
PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG
Efforts to preserve Sandy Beach and surrounding land from possible development was once again a topic of discussion at the April 3 Hudson Town Council meeting.
The Sandy Beach project, officially named the Pine Beach development project by the developer, was the subject of a lengthy discussion between several Hudson town councillors and resident Richard Grinnell during the council meeting held Monday, April 3.
Grinnell brought council’s attention to the petition he started last fall, saying the petition now has a total of 1273 signatures and of those, 543 are from Hudson residents. The petition asks the Town of Hudson to hold a town-wide referendum on the subject of purchasing Sandy Beach and the land between it and Jack Layton Park for the purpose of preserving it as a public park. Grinnell said council had told him he needed 500 signatures for his petition.
“It was not for a referendum to be held, but to open the subject,” said Councillor Deborah Woodhead. She said the last time a referendum was held concerning the property it was regarding a by-law change. “According to the owner, the land is not for sale.”
The exchange between Grinnell and Woodhead continued until Grinnell said that he had heard that someone representing the town had presented an offer to the owner of Sandy Beach that was rejected. Mayor Ed Prévost clarified no one had represented the town in an official capacity.
Reporting in question
When Grinnell replied he’d read it in the paper, Councillor Woodhead responded, “You know that the paper is full of untruths. There are errors in the paper and misquotes and that’s a fact,” adding, “No offense, James,” a comment directed at this writer.
In the Thursday, October 6, 2016 edition of Your Local Journal, it was reported that Grinnell asked council how many signatures he would need on his petition for council to hold a referendum.
Councillor Woodhead was chairing the meeting as Pro-Mayor and after an exchange with Grinnell said, as verified after consulting archival audio recordings, “….500 signatures would be great.” She did not specifically state that this would trigger a referendum.
An article titled Sandy Beach project dead in the water in the January 19, 2017 edition of Your Local Journal reported local residents William Nash and Daniel Gauthier proposed buying a section of the land and conferred with the Nature Conservancy of Canada who declined due to the comparatively small land parcel size. Though the Town of Hudson was consulted, and were credited for being very helpful, agreeing to a meeting with landowner Hans-Karl Muhlegg and the two residents, any chance to purchase was halted following a letter on behalf of Muhlegg by registered urban lobbyist Marc Perreault informing them that if they wished to purchase the property, a serious offer must be deposited with the owners by December 20, 2016.
Nash and Gauthier concluded it was impossible to meet that deadline, and that as far as they were concerned, the project was over.
Grinnell asked what he should do next to move forward and was invited to deposit his petition with the Town Clerk, Cassandra Comin-Bergonzi, which he did.
Councillor Ron Goldenberg said the council had discussed the legality of Grinnell’s referendum question and, in their opinion, it is not a legal question and is potentially biased. “We didn’t tell you to get those signatures. You did that. We said that if you get the signatures, we’d talk. We are talking,” said Goldenberg. Grinnell replied that it wasn’t a discussion, that the councillor was being dictatorial.
Mayor Prévost brought the discussion to an end, referring to the meeting the town had with Muhlegg and Perreault following the information meeting held Thursday, February 16, at the Community Centre.
The mayor said a lot of comments, suggestions, and modifications from citizens at the presentation were on record. “We met with Mr. Muhlegg and his associate and reviewed all of our issues to see which ones would fly or would not fly on behalf of the town,” said Prévost adding that a public presentation is planned although a date has not yet been chosen. “Our responsibility is to manage the town. Sandy Beach is part of it. It has to be scheduled into our order of priorities.”
Pine Lake Update
Resident Chloe Hutchison requested an update on the plans for Pine Lake and the dam during the second question period. Prévost replied, “If you read Your Local Journal (March 30 edition), there is an article that gives you as good an update as I can give you right now.”
Councilor Nicole Durand reported the Société de Développement Commercial Hudson (SDC Hudson) held its Annual General Meeting Friday, March 31. “They submitted their budget, it was approved, there was a full quorum,” said Durand adding new board members were elected.
During the second question period, resident Diane Piacente, who, until recently was on the board of directors of SDC Hudson and was present for the AGM, added it was well attended. “When is the town going to send out the assessment fee invoices for 2017?” asked Piacente. “The former board were notified in January that Louise Craig had made a complaint at the January council meeting citing irregularities with the SDC,” she added. “The allegations were all false, perhaps due to some misunderstanding, as to who could sit on the board and who could not,” said Piacente. “The only procedural glitch was that we did not have a quorum for our 2016 AGM. So we didn’t appoint any new members, we didn’t pass any resolutions, we had an informal meeting.”
A similar problem arose for the 2016 SDC Hudson budget meeting that did not have a quorum. “We had 19 people and I thought the percentage was 20 per cent, not 25 per cent (of the membership),” she said, adding an apology. According to Piacente, the resolution concerning the quorum issue has been amended to a 10 per cent ratio as the former ratio was unrealistic. The mayor said council would take her presentation under deliberation and get back to her.
Snow Removal Issues
Council’s resolution to send a notice to the town’s snow removal contractor regarding significant breaches of contract drew applause from residents. Council and citizen dissatisfaction with snow removal throughout the 2016 – 2017 winter was underlined by a resident’s complaint on Monday evening that approximately eight feet of the front lawn on her property had disappeared due to snow removal.