Pincourt residents discuss forest conservation with federal and provincial officials
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
Some residents have met with provincial and federal politicians to express their concerns but a date for a planned information meeting to discuss the development of Place Pierre-Brunet, also known as Rousseau Forest, between city officials and residents still hasn’t been set, said Mayor Yvan Cardinal.
A group of Pincourt citizens recently met with Vaudreuil Member of the National Assembly (MNA) Marie-Claude Nichols and Vaudreuil-Soulanges Member of Parliament (MP) Peter Schiefke at two separate meetings last week to share their concerns about a proposed residential development planned in one of the town’s last forested areas.
Resident Shelagh McNally and five other residents from the environmental conservation group Sauvez Rousseau Forest respectively met with Nichols and Schiefke at their riding offices on July 10 and 11. McNally said they were well received at both meetings.
The preservation of the woods at Place Pierre-Brunet, also known as Rousseau Forest to locals, has been raised by McNally and other residents during the town’s last three council meetings. Over 40 residents attended each of the two sessions in May and June to tell council they want the land preserved.
Environment ministry permit
The meeting at Nichol’s constituency office in Vaudreuil-Dorion introduced the MNA to a delicate situation regarding residents who want to preserve a forest, and developers Habitations Raymond Allard Inc. and Habitations Sylvain Ménard Inc. who want to build a residential project on land they own.
“I don’t know everything about that file. The only thing I did was to meet with the residents,” Nichols told The Journal during an interview at her office July 17.
“They explained their situation, gave me some information about the characteristics of the land, and said they want to keep that land green,” said Nichols. “They’re worried about the permit that the provincial environment ministry gave to the developers.”
The permit will allow the developers to clear the land and begin construction of single family dwellings. Tree cutting in Place Pierre-Brunet could begin by early October when the developer would no longer be in contravention of the Federal Migratory Bird Act.
“This is where it gets a little bit complicated,” said Nichols. “The provincial environment ministry did give the permit for development. It’s usually hard to get it. Now it’s the opposite. People are upset with the government for issuing development permits.”
The land at Place Pierre-Brunet was subdivided into individual lots in 1954. It was one of the first residential zones slated for development in Pincourt at the time. “This also complicates the issue. The city can’t stop the promoter from building,” she said.
Nichols said she encountered similar situations during her four-and-a-half year tenure as mayor of neighbouring Notre-Dame-de-l’Île Perrot (NDIP) before being elected as MNA for the region in 2014.
“I understand people want to keep the land green, keep the trees and fauna, and I agree with that. But when I was mayor, I always told my residents if they wanted to preserve land, they should buy it,” she said.
“I will try to help the residents because I understand what they want. I’m not sure if there’s a lot I can do because the promoter already received the authorization and permit. I would like to work in collaboration with the residents and the city, with someone from the environment ministry and the promoter and maybe we can do something like create green buffer zones,” said Nichols.
“Maybe we can work together so we can find a solution for everyone. It’s a very delicate situation,” she added.
Federal court ruling
Schiefke issued a statement on Monday confirming he met with a, “...group of concerned citizens where I was able to hear first-hand their concerns regarding the development of Rousseau Forest in Pincourt.
“Representatives of the group are concerned there are species at risk, or protected, that live in the green space and they have formally requested that I consult with the Office of the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change to see if this development project violates any federal laws concerning the protection of endangered species or species at risk,” the statement read.
It comes more than three weeks after a Federal Court ruling in late June that found federal environment minister Katherine McKenna was justified in issuing an emergency order in June 2016 against the promoters of a residential development on the South Shore to halt construction within a two-kilometre radius to protect the habitat of the endangered western chorus frog.
“I can confirm that my office has officially reached out to the ministry and I am currently waiting for a response,” said Schiefke.
No meeting date yet
A date for a planned information meeting to discuss the development of Place Pierre-Brunet between city officials and residents still hasn’t been set, said Mayor Yvan Cardinal.
McNally is optimistic the situation can be resolved.
“Pincourt council likes to work things out with people. They have a history of wanting to have good communication with their residents,” she said. “Their call for a special meeting demonstrates that. I’m hopeful that we can come to a solution that is for the benefit for all of Pincourt.”