Stories of the year - January to June

JANUARY

CAQ leader François Legault seekeind political support in Rigaud

Story and photo by James Armstrong

In the months leading up to his provincial election win, Coalition Avenir Québec leader François Legault was on the campaign trail, stopping by Rigaud January 17 to meet with Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. primarily to discuss the lag time in processing claims for victims of the 2017 flooding.

“People are really discouraged with the length of time it takes to process aid applications,” said Legault. According to information given him by the mayor, out of 212 applications made nine months prior, only 15 had been processed completely.

Legault acknowledged the negative financial and emotional impact of the situation on individuals and families, some of whom continued to live in hotels because they could not return to their homes. “It’s not normal that 197 files out 212 have not been processed.”

As of press time, Mayor Gruenwald said approximately 40 per cent of the original 250 cases are still being processed.

Saint-Lazare cancels 2018 edition of Festival au Galop

Story and photo by John Jantak

Saint-Lazare opted not to stage its annual equestrian Festival au Galop in 2018.

Mayor Robert Grimaudo said the then-newly elected council decided to hire a specialized firm to conduct a series of surveys to gauge public opinion on whether the town should hold the event in the future and on other infrastructure related issues.

“Right now there are people who don’t want the Festival au Galop but there are 50,000 people who have visited the site. We want to know what our options are. People brought up a lot issues during the election campaign and the opinions were very diverse,” Grimaudo told The Journal.

“The festival was a very contentious issue. Maybe people want it to continue for $50,000 instead of $300,000 a year. Rather than listening to hearsay, we want to get a good survey done to find out what people really want,” Grimaudo added.

Hudson flood zone building prohibition

By James Armstrong

Photo by Brian Gallagher

The Town of Hudson proposed by-law amendments to effectively prohibit the construction all new main buildings in the 20 to 100-year flood zone.

Some residents were clearly not happy with the changes. “What will this do to our property values?” asked one. Owners of vacant tracts of land were especially concerned because their lots would no longer be developable or saleable.

Mayor Jamie Nicholls said reduction in land value would likely mean a reduction in taxes.

Nicholls added the subject of prohibiting construction in the flood zone had been discussed with the MRC-VS and other municipalities were considering similar measures to deal with extreme weather events and climate change.

A reported 55 buildings were affected during the spring 2017 flooding – 24 houses were evacuated and 125,000 sand bags were used.

Written notices were sent to the 300 residents affected by the proposed changes.

Landslide stabilization work begins in Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot

Story and photo by John Jantak

Work to stabilize the shoreline and surrounding hillsides to prevent a possible landslide began in late February along the Ottawa River near Rue Simone-De Beauvoir and 150th Avenue in NDIP.

The project was originally planned to be done in two phases with the first continuing until around mid-March before being halted for the annual spawning season of the many species of fish where the Ottawa River intersects with the St. Lawrence River.

However, due to favourable weather conditions and a compressed work schedule, the work was completed by the end of March.

Five zones had been identified for stabilization – three near Rue Simone-De Beauvoir and two close to 150th Avenue. The work had been earmarked to prevent a possible landslide in the future although the risk was considered minimal.

Sainte-Justine-de-Newton landslide raises regional concern

Story and photo by Carmen Marie Fabio

Elected officials and environmental groups are still waiting for the provincial government to take action to address the compromised state of a Sainte-Justine-de-Newton road which is the main access point to the only manual pipeline shutoff valve between Rigaud and Montreal.

“The manual valve is part of Enbridge’s Line 9B that runs through our territory,” said Anne Minnh-Thu Quach, NDP MP for Salaberry-Suroît, accompanied at the site by current and former town mayors, Denis Ranger and Patricia Domingos.

Quach said it would take a mere 12 hours for oil to make its way into the potable water system that serves the population of Montreal.

The road in question is 7e Rang just off Montée de la Station. Running parallel to the Rivière Delisle, a roughly 20-metre section of one lane of the road collapsed in 2017 and slid down the bank towards the water. Quach and the environmental groups are questioning how the damage could negatively affect response time to reach the valve in the event of an emergency.

“Any shutoff orders would come from head office in Calgary and it would then take an Enbridge employee one-and-a-half hours to get here,” said Quach. With two sets of concrete barricades currently in place on 7e Rang, the only other way to access the manual valve is by driving across the Ontario border and backtracking. Quach also said the concrete barriers do not appear on any Global Positioning Systems.

“We can easily access Valve 38 if we need to,” said Ken Hall, Enbridge’s Senior Advisor of Community Engagement who said the company is fully aware of the landslide and its staff knows the alternate route.

Hall also said that particular valve is a legacy of the 40-year-old pipeline and is not used as part of the emergency shut-down process. In the event of an actual emergency, one of the electronic shut-off valves would be deployed.

The landslide affecting the municipally-owned 7e Rang resulted, in part, from last year’s unprecedented springtime flooding according to Domingos. As of December 17, she reiterated, “The dossier is still being bounced around by both the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Public Security.”

Strangles disease takes hold in Vaudreuil-Soulanges

By Nick Zacharias

Photo by Émilie Bonnardeaux

A highly contagious and sometimes fatal equine disease took hold in the region, posing a health threat to horses and bringing serious financial consequences for their caregivers. The disease, aptly named strangles, causes fever, pain and swelling in the lymph nodes of horses, potentially leading to airway constriction and even death.

Common elsewhere but new to this area, it’s caused by a strain of bacteria called Streptococcus equi. Heartford Stables in Ste. Marthe, which was hit hard having 10 out of 20 of their horses showing symptoms, took extreme measures to ensure that the disease did not leave their grounds.

“We have had to pay many thousands of dollars in vet bills,” said owner stable owner Émilie Bonnardeaux, “and we have had to purchase new shelters and fences to keep the symptomatic horses isolated.”

Heartford Stables now has a completely clean bill of health and a structure in place that goes beyond regular standards to ensure they stay that way. To reach out to new families and new riders, they’re offering a fun exploration program over the holidays where kids and adults can visit the stables for a small fee of around $30, to try their hands at grooming and riding and caring for horses, and get a feel for what the horse world is all about. For information get in touch with owner Émilie at (438) 889-7303 or bonnemilie@yahoo.com

Green light given for two Vaudreuil-Dorion marijuana grow-ops

By John Jantak

Shutterstock photo

Two cannabis growing facilities were given the green light to proceed after Vaudreuil-Dorion council adopted two resolutions at a May 7 council meeting that will restrict all grow-ops to four specific zones within its industrial areas.

The intention was to isolate the facilities away from residential and commercial areas. “We have to put them somewhere,” said Mayor Guy Pilon. “These are our most restricted industrial areas”

A public consultation meeting held before the start of the council session to discuss the new marijuana grow-ops and only drew about five people into the chamber, which disappointed Pilon.

While the city said it will apply its municipal cigarette smoking regulations to prohibit marijuana consumption in certain places such as parks and outside public buildings, Pilon said enforcing them is another matter.

The facilities have yet to be built.

Vaudreuil-Dorion’s Lac Chérie saved from development

By John Jantak

The Journal file photo/Carmen Marie Fabio

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.

“This is very good news for all the citizens who live around the quarry,” said Mayor Guy Pilon. “Lac Chérie 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 with an industrial pump for a proposed residential development. Residents appealed to Pilon and municipal council to take action to stop the draining.

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.

New land acquisition expands Ste. Anne’s L’Anse-à-l’Orme nature reserve to 70 hectares

Story and photo by John Jantak

Ste. Anne de Bellevue’s commitment to enlarge the L’Anse-à-l’Orme nature park moved forward with council’s endorsement of two letters signed in May by Mayor Paola Hawa to proceed with the acquisition of 14 hectares of land to expand the nature park in the north sector.

The endorsement ended a contentious $35 million legal battle that was launched against the city by Développement Immobilier Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue (DISAB) which sold the land for $9.5 million to the Montreal agglomeration.

Conservation commitment

“I’m ecstatic about it,” Hawa said. “I’ve been working towards this for a long time. There are 70 hectares in total that have been saved so far.”

She’s also grateful to the residents who supported her preservation stance. “Thank goodness for the citizens of Ste. Anne’s who did not fall for that fear-mongering regarding the $35 million lawsuit against the city and what would happen if we didn’t allow DISAB to get their way,” said Hawa.

Hawa praised both current Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante and former Mayor Denis Coderre for their commitment to preserving L’Anse-à-l’Orme. “They’ve absolutely been wonderful. I don’t want to forget or belittle that. Coderre started the process.”

Jordan Taylor pleads guilty forgoing trial by jury

By James Armstrong and Carmen Marie Fabio

The Journal file photo/Belinda Pyle

Despite previously pleading not guilty to 10 charges including dangerous driving and criminal negligence and opting for a trial by jury, Jordan Xavier Taylor of Hudson pleaded guilty June 19 to two counts of driving under the influence causing bodily harm. All other charges were stayed.

The accident occurred in the Hudson’s Valleys area on June 12, 2015 and left Hudson resident Tina Lyon Adams, then 21, in critical condition and her friend Alique Langlois Retolla with minor injuries.

A sentencing hearing was to be held September 25 but defense lawyer Philip Schneider requested a postpone­ment due to what was only described as, ‘special circumstances.’ Taylor is scheduled to appear before the courts in January, 2019.

Following the accident, Adams spent months in hospital with a broken pelvis and required a hip replacement for a total of 19 surgeries to adjust ongoing leg problems.

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