• John Jantak

St. Lazare councillor questions timing of traffic roundabout land purchase


District 4 Councillor Marc-André Esculier said the decision on whether the town should have purchased private land for the proposed roundabout at the intersection of Avenue Bédard and Chemin St. Louis should have been made by the newly-elected council after the upcoming municipal election on November 5.

The recent acquisition of six parcels of land by the Town of St. Lazare for the possible construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Avenue Bédard and Chemin St. Louis has left one municipal councillor baffled about the timing of the purchase.

District 4 Councillor Marc-André Esculier contends that since no decision will be made regarding the future of the intersection until after the upcoming municipal election on November 5, it was inappropriate for a majority of council, including Mayor Robert Grimaudo, to have voted in favour of the purchase during the June 6 council session. Esculier was the only councillor to vote against it.

“I did not agree with the premature buyout of these properties and I still don’t,” Esculier told Your Local Journal. “I haven’t changed my position. I still think that the elected officials in November, whoever they may be, will decide whether or not there’s a roundabout, traffic lights or anything at all. It’s the new council that should have been given the responsibility to buy out these properties.”

Land reserves

Grimaudo said the council under former Mayor Pierre Kary’s administration had voted to put three-year reserves on the land, which was renewed for another three-year period over two years ago under Grimaudo’s administration when he was re-elected to his first full four-year term as mayor in 2013. He was first elected in a June 2012 by-election to replace Kary who abruptly resigned his post.

Since the current reserves for the six parcels of land would expire before the end of the current administration’s mandate, Grimaudo said most councillors felt it would be more expedient if they went ahead with the purchase rather than having to provide an undetermined amount of financial compensation to the affected property owners, which is mandated under provincial decree.

“When you decide to put a reserve on the land and then decide you’re not going to purchase it, the owners have recourse,” said Grimaudo. “One way or another, there was going to be some costs involved. There were six plots of land that were purchased for $240,000. We came $100,000 under budget.”

Purchase negotiations

Negotiations between the town and property owners regarding the land purchases were done solely by the town’s administrative personnel and there was never any political interference during the process, said Grimaudo.

“We just didn’t pull numbers out of the air. We had professional evaluators come in to make the assessments and based the negotiations on the estimated value of each property,” he added. “Rumours that it would cost between $600,000 to $1 million to expropriate the land – that was just disinformation put out by people who have political motivations.”

With the expropriation finalized, reaching a consensus on whether the town should proceed with a roundabout or select another option may not be easy to achieve. Grimaudo contends a roundabout is the most cost-efficient and practical solution whereas Esculier contends a revamped intersection with motion-sensor stop-lights on Chemin St. Louis is more economical and practical.