• John Jantak

Ste. Anne’s will not be ‘bullied’ after developers launch lawsuit against city


PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

A $35 million lawsuit was launched by DISAB against Ste. Anne de Bellevue for changes to the city’s urban development plan for the northern sector alleging plan revisions seriously affect their ability to develop the land they purchased in 2012.

Ste. Anne de Bellevue Mayor Paola Hawa said city council will not be ‘bullied’ into making changes to its recently adopted urban development plan for the northern sector after Développement Immobilier Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue (DISAB) launched a $35 million lawsuit in Quebec Superior Court against the city.

The legal action filed on July 3 comes just over one month after council unanimously voted in favour of adopting the final revised version of its Programme particulier d'urbanisme (PPU) regarding future development in the north at a special council session on June 1, which protects significantly more land deemed environmentally sensitive.

Developers decry limitations

A press release from DISAB, a consortium of three developers – Les Habitations Sylvain Ménard Inc., Les Habitations Raymond Allard Inc., and Construction Jean Houde Inc – stated the group bought the land from Investissement Québec for more than $9 million in 2012 and “...invested several hundred thousand dollars in the project,” according to their press release.

DISAB contends that the revised PPU severely limits the amount of land allocated for development and modifies the type of residential construction that was proposed by the developers when the original PPU was adopted by the former municipal administration in 2012. “If the city wanted to prevent any and all construction on our land, it should have acquired it through expropriation,” said DISAB.

Pierre Tessier, President of Montreal-based public relations company Communications Infrarouge, said DISAB conducted its negotiations with the city in good faith and they are disappointed with the outcome because it severely limits their ability to develop the land they own even though the group had already set aside large portions of wetlands for conservation.

Ste. Anne’s environmental concerns

Mayor Paola Hawa said the city’s intention was never to prevent development, rather after further study and public consultations, it was determined that additional environmentally-sensitive areas required preservation.

While DISAB may not be able to develop the area as planned, the mayor says the developers will be able to build the same number of units although the scope of the project would be limited to only allow multi-unit buildings about three storeys high. Hawa added the promoters are using scare tactics to sway public opinion in their favour as a result of the lawsuit.

“We find their tactics so far, be it the disinformation campaign they launched in January and their current allegations, are deplorable. This is clearly intended to mislead and I highlight the fact that it is absolutely not true that they cannot build. They can build the same number of units they were requesting but not in the same manner,” said Hawa.

Zoning red flag

“I also highlight the fact that when they purchased the land, it was under a Règlement de contrôle intérimaire (RCI) which is a big red flag that tells any purchaser look out, there’s a zoning change in effect coming down the pipes. If they bought the land irrespective of this huge glaring warning sign, so be it,” Hawa added.

Tessier disputed Hawa’s claim about the RCI timeframe regarding its application which is apparently meant to be used for a few months to determine which areas should be protected from development, and that the current council kept extending the RCI for almost four years, long past the date it would have expired.

He noted there have been cases in other municipalities dealing with similar circumstances where court rulings were made in favour of the developers, but this hasn’t swayed Hawa’s resolve to maintain the current PPU as is.

United council

“I’m proud of council for their united stance. It’s not often that we stand together, but in this instance we’re unanimous in our position that we are doing this for the benefit of our citizens. We will not be bullied to forsake our residents and the health of our city because the promoters didn’t get their way,” she said.

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