• John Jantak

Vaudreuil-Dorion’s Lac Chérie saved from development


THE JOURNAL FILE PHOTO/CARMEN MARIE FABIO

Tyson the boxer looks on as the pumps were in the process of draining Vaudreuil-Dorion’s Lac Chérie in September, 2013 in preparation for residential development. Following a court battle, the town of Vaudreuil-Dorion announced this week that the body of water will be preserved.

A former quarry in Vaudreuil-Dorion that transformed itself over the past six decades into a lake boasting a unique ecosystem can stay after the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled against a developer’s plans to drain it and replace the water with landfill for a housing project Mayor Guy Pilon told The Journal exclusively during a telephone interview on May 23.

“This is very good news for all the citizens who live around the quarry,” said Pilon. “Lac Cherie is now an official lake.” The Court of Appeal ruling is the second court decision in favour of the municipality. The Superior Court of Quebec ruled on behalf of the city before landowner Benjamin Wygodny appealed the judgement.

The issue dates back to August 2013 when residents discovered Wygodny had begun draining the lake, referred to in official documents as Lac la Carrière, with an industrial pump for a proposed residential development. Residents appealed to Pilon and municipal council to take action to stop the draining.

Environmental study

Wygodny apparently continued to drain the lake despite being told by the city to stop. The provincial Ministry of Environment stepped in and ordered a stop to all further work at that time until an environmental assessment study was completed to determine whether the body of water conformed to provincial guidelines established to preserve and protect southwestern Quebec’s few remaining wetlands.

Pilon publicly stated at the council meeting on September 3, 2013, that he favoured preserving Lac Chérie but said the town had limited options available because the lake is on private land.

‘We want to keep the lake’

“We already said we want to keep the lake. Now it’s up to the environment ministry and the lawyers from both sides to decide its fate. After that, we will see what we can do,” said Pilon at the time. Wygodny took legal action against the city afterwards.

While Pilon is pleased with the Court of Appeal ruling, Wygodny can still try to have the judgement overturned by filing an application to have the case heard before the Supreme Court of Canada. “He can try, but the Supreme Court mostly deals with civil rights cases. I think the Court of Appeal decision will be final and I’m very happy about that,” said Pilon.

Welcome news

The news was also welcomed by resident Gerry Sly who, along with other citizens, asked Pilon and city council to stop the planned development when the issue arose in August 2013. “That is wonderful news. I’m really impressed. I didn’t think the city would be able to stop it because it’s on private land,” said Sly.

“Residents in the neighbourhood will be happy. It’s like a nature reserve. It’s absolutely gorgeous. There are beavers, foxes, turtles and all kinds of fish. People are there all the time fishing. It’s nice to see that we’re going to preserve another piece of land in the city,” added Sly.

Smaller development possible

Another reason Sly is pleased is because the land apparently flooded last year. “That whole area was flooded because it’s so close to the water. I was worried if the developer started to build there, let’s say in 20 years, people won’t remember what happened. People would buy land there and if there’s another flood, they wouldn’t have known. This is really fortunate for future generations,” said Sly.

The judgement also means residents will not have to deal with an estimated 30,000 trucks bringing in material to fill the lake. “It would have been unbearable for the citizens who live around the lake,” said Pilon.

While the lake is being preserved, Pilon said Wygodny still has the option to build some houses around the lake but not the large-scale development that was originally planned. The city does not know what Wygodny’s plans are. A call made to Wygodny for a comment regarding the Court of Appeal ruling was not returned by press time.

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