Hudson residents quietly observe town committee deliberations
PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG
Hudson residents had their first experience of the recently instituted committee system.
A group of approximately 50 Hudson residents filled the Teen Centre of the Stephen F. Shaar Community Centre on Tuesday, April 24 to observe the public portion of the Natural Infrastructure Committee meeting. Citizens wanting to pose questions to the committee were requested to submit them in advance of the meeting to their district councillors.
Hudson has a new system of committees instated by Mayor Jamie Nicholls and council following their election in November, 2017. Council’s decision to not include individual citizens on the committees came up for discussion during a recent town council meeting. Several residents took issue with the situation pointing out that Hudson has a history of including residents on town committees.
Mayor Nicholls responded at that meeting that residents were always welcome to make a presentation to any committee at any time. He said that since the committees were decision-making entities that report to council, unelected citizens were not permitted under Quebec law to participate as members.
Subsequently, the audience observed while councillors and town administrators heard presentations from Institut des Territoires, Nature Action Québec, and citizen-expert Chris Buddle concerning development of the Como Wetland.
Dissatisfaction with committees
District 3 Councillor Chloe Hutchison, however, chose not to participate with the committee. She told The Journal she had resigned from all committee participation except for the Town Planning Advisory Committee (TPAC) because of her disagreement with the function and structure of the current committee system.
It became apparent as the meeting progressed that there were two items on the committee’s unpublished agenda: the construction of a recreational structure by the Maison de Soins Palliative de Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MSPVS) and the construction of homes on subdivided lots on Como Gardens Road.
THE JOURNAL FILE PHOTO/EVA McCARTNEY
The fate of the bog situated behind the Palliative Care Residence on Hudson’s Como Gardens was at the centre of discussion at the April 24 Natural Infrastructure Committee meeting.
Developing subdivided wetland
It was Councillor Daren Legault who pointed out the major issue for most people in the room was whether or not the developer of the subdivided lots possesses a valid certificate of authorization from the Quebec government and what options the town has for protecting the bog. Director General Jean-Pierre Roy responded that the certificate issued in 2012 was valid.
André Goulet from Institut des Territoires responded that municipalities might have the tools in their hands to protect wetlands.
“There is a major lack of conserved land in Quebec,” said Goulet adding that the certificate doesn’t protect the wetland; it provides permission to develop it. He said money is the main motivator and with rising development costs, the town might have a chance of making a deal for the land in question.
“Hudson will control the buffer area in perpetuity. That will give us the extra layer of enforcement to make sure that best practices are done,” said Nicholls who chaired the meeting.
Plans for VSPCR
Goulet also presented the outline of the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence (VSPCR) construction plan and the consultation process that has taken place to date that included patients, volunteers, employees, families of patients, Hudson residents and other stakeholders including the town. It wasn’t clear, however, exactly what the project would be in concrete terms.
“It needs to have a light footprint on the wetland,” said Nicholls.
Chris Buddle, Dean of Students and Professor in the Department of Natural Resource Sciences at McGill University, strongly urged the town to develop a long-term sustainable and strategic environmental plan for Hudson.
“The Como bog is one part, but many of the contentious issues in town, whether it’s Sandy Beach or Pine Lake, development is connected to our environment,” said Buddle. “We need to look at how we plan our development through the lens of the environment.”
He pointed out the town is situated in a watershed, and that the lay of the land has flooding issues. “All of these issues need to be talked about in an integrated, sustainable and holistic way,” he said. “Any planning we do has to be done by looking at our master plan for the town.” Buddle added that, per capita, Hudson has a wealth of resident experts who possess knowledge and expertise that needs to be included in the planning process.