Pincourt and St. Lazare citizens dismayed by MRC’s inability to act on environmental concerns
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
Along with Pincourt residents expressing concerns over potential development of the last patch of forest in their town, Saint-Lazare resident Réjeanne Bilodeau (at the podium) addresses the MRC Vaudreuil-Soulanges mayors and officials about environmental concerns regarding the proposed du Fief residential development project September 26.
The issue of environmentally sensitive areas being lost to development prompted residents from Pincourt and Saint-Lazare to ask the mayors and representatives of the Municipalité régionale de comté (MRC) de Vaudreuil-Soulanges what they could do to help preserve remaining green spaces within its jurisdiction. The answer – nothing.
Patrick Bousez, the MRC Prefect and Mayor of Rivière-Beaudette, said it’s up to each of the 23 municipalities that comprise the MRC to set their own criteria regarding conservation and development. The guidelines listed on its website are only recommendations. The residents’ concerns were raised during question period at the monthly council meeting last Wednesday, September 26.
The MRC doesn’t have the authority to prevent any municipality from going ahead with a development project on their territory, confirmed MRC Communications Manager Simon Richard in a telephone interview with The Journal on September 28. It’s a provincial matter. Citizens must address their concerns to the environment ministry, he added.
Dismayed and bewildered
It wasn’t what the residents expected to hear. Pincourt environmentalist Shelagh McNally and other residents including Denise Goudreau and Michel Pilon from the group Sauvez Rousseau Forest, who addressed the council during question period, were dismayed and bewildered by the MRC’s response.
They left the meeting confused about the role of the MRC.
“They have so much information about the environment on their website” said McNally. “They’re encouraging people to participate and publishing these guidelines saying they’re pro-environment and how important it is to save it. But why are they saying it if there’s no help given at all?”
MRC environmental policy
The section dedicated to the environment on the MRC website acknowledges green spaces are rapidly disappearing throughout its territory and encourages municipalities to adopt conservation practices wherever possible to protect forests and wetlands.
“The loss of forest cover leads inevitably to a reduction of biodiversity, causing a potential reduction of wildlife and plant populations,” states the first sentence in its Trees and Woodlands Policy.
“In some sectors, the decrease in forest cover has resulted in negative consequences for soil protection against erosion by water and wind. Since woodlands also play a role in controlling noise, pollution and odors, their disappearance has a major impact on quality of life for residents,” the paragraph continues.
The members of Sauvez Rousseau Forest, along with up to 40 area residents, have consistently attended the monthly Pincourt council meetings since May. They’ve been trying to sway Mayor Yvan Cardinal and the six councillors to preserve what’s considered the last remaining forest and wetlands in Pincourt, formally known as Place Pierre-Brunet, from development.
Cardinal, who is also the MRC Vice-Prefect, has repeatedly told residents there is nothing the town can do to prevent the development of about 45 new homes on the approximately four hectares of land. It was originally slated for development in 1954. The developer, Sylvain Ménard, has also received a permit from the provincial environment ministry allowing construction.
As a sign of transparency and goodwill, the city agreed in August to hire a private engineering firm to conduct an environmental study, said Cardinal. The report will be delivered to the city within the next couple of weeks and its findings are expected to determine the fate of the forest.
Two Saint-Lazare residents also brought their environmental concerns about the proposed du Fief housing project to the MRC council. They said any kind of development will negatively impact the biodiversity of the forested land and also could affect the underground aquifer that provides drinking water to the town.
“It was evident that the people at the MRC council meeting were voicing their concerns about conservation because municipalities are not responding to their concerns,” said McNally. “There were many people there and they were all there for the environment. It obviously points to a problem. But when we’re told to go back to the municipalities, it’s a Catch-22.”