• John Jantak

Ste. Anne’s north sector land expropriation motion divides council


Ste. Anne’s council voted by a four-to-three margin during its monthly public meeting on February 12 to expropriate a portion of land owned by Grilli Property Group Inc. surrounding the historic Braerob Farmhouse that will be set aside for a proposed park and community centre in the north sector in accordance with its urban development plan.

A notice of motion to proceed with the expropriation of land around the former Braerob farmhouse in the city’s north sector narrowly passed adoption after an equally divided vote among the six council members forced Mayor Paola Hawa to cast the deciding vote during the Monday evening council meeting on February 12.

Councillors Dana Chevalier, Ryan Young and Denis Gignac voted to adopt the motion. Councillors Francis Juneau, Tom Broad and Yvan Labelle voted against it. Mayor Paola Hawa broke the tie by voting in favour of adopting the motion.

North sector councillors Tom Broad and Denis Gignac, who represent their constituents in Districts 4 and 6, offered differing viewpoints on why they respectively voted against and for the motion. They are both new councillors who were elected to their first mandate during the municipal election last November.

Dissenting viewpoint

Broad said his vote against the expropriation was based on feedback he received from his constituents during the municipal election campaign.

“Three months ago I was knocking on doors and got a really good picture of what the citizens were saying and I’m trying to reflect that. That’s my job. That’s what I was elected to do. I have to make sure my steps are in alignment with what the people asked me to do,” said Broad.

“It’s a complicated issue. I don’t believe in imposing my personal views. My job is to represent my sector based on the information they give me. We all know what the citizens asked us to do during our campaigns and it’s our responsibility to reflect that individually with our decisions,” Broad added.

The lack of a cohesive approach on how best to achieve the goals set out in the finalized version of the city’s Plan Particulier d’Urbanisme (PPU) – urban development plan – which was unanimously adopted by the previous city council last June, also swayed Broad to vote against the land expropriation motion.

“We’re all working toward the same end to have a PPU that respects green areas. It’s more of a difference of opinion on how to get to that point,” said Broad.

“We discussed each of our positions on how to proceed in respect, first and foremost, to the citizens as well as regarding taxpayers’ dollars and to keep the core concepts of the PPU there. It was more a difference of opinion on the process as opposed to what the ultimate goal was,” added Broad.

Supporting viewpoint

Gignac said his vote supporting the expropriation was also based on the feedback he received from his constituents during the election campaign. The response from just about everyone he met during his door-to-door visits was to preserve the land around the farmhouse as stipulated in the PPU, he said.

“I was very up-front in saying the way the PPU was done and adopted presented a concept I fully agree with. In an ideal world, you would try to preserve everything and not build anything. Sometimes it’s not realistic. The PPU, as it was done, allows a little bit of development while maximizing the green space that is left and that piece of land is an integral and central part of it,” said Gignac.

“It will be the entrance to a park and community centre. It will be almost directly across the street from the train station when the light rail transit system will be built,” added Gignac.

People made it clear to him during his campaign they did not want door-to-door development, he said. “The PPU is a way to limit or restrict development by setting boundaries as to what can or cannot be done in that area,” said Gignac.

The final adopted version of the PPU was a welcome change from previous versions which proposed large-scale development, he said. “Some of the recommendations were comparable to what was being proposed for Pierrefonds West, which is to build a couple of thousand houses. That’s not what we want in our backyard,” said Gignac.

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