• Nick Zacharias

Flood of concern about new development in Hudson


PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS

This area on Léger Street is one of the lots of the proposed ‘Willowbrook’ housing development in Hudson that includes 114 units. An information session held April 30 had the developer and elected officials answer residents’ questions and concerns.

On the evening of April 30, Hudson District 1 Councillor Helen Kurgansky hosted an informal meeting to answer citizens’ questions about the planned development of 114 new homes in Hudson, slated to be built in Como on a section of land bordered by Parsons Street, Léger Street, and Main Road across from the Auberge Willow Inn. The special meeting was called in response to requests at the previous regular council meeting as area residents became more aware of the scope of the proposed plan. In attendance were Councillor Kurgansky, Hudson Mayor Jamie Nicholls, and Hudson Director General Philip Toone, as well as developer Philippe Robert of Habitations Robert, and residents concerned with the project.

A crowd of about 60 locals filled St. Mary’s Church Hall for an animated discussion that lasted well over three hours.

114-lot development

Following an introduction by Kurgansky, Robert gave a general description of the ‘Willowbrook’ development plan as it currently exists. The plan includes 114 lots ranging from roughly 6,000 to 10,000 square feet, and will include a mix of detached bungalows, two-storey houses and town houses. The floor was opened up for questions, which quickly became quite heated, until Mayor Nicholls calmed the group by recommending that everyone take 10 minutes out to look at the plan itself. Attendees eagerly came up to see the large paper layout (which it was stressed was not final), most of them seeing it for the first time.

Residents’ concerns

Residents then resumed questions, expressing concerns over everything from the influx of new traffic, the lack of public transit, the degraded state of roads in the area, conservation of wetlands and endangered tree species, and the impact the development would have on the traditional community landscape of the town.

“We came here because we love the trees, we love the large lots, we love that Hudson is not just another congested treeless suburb like so many other communities,” said one resident who drew applause from the crowd. Robert assured her that as the developer they are making every effort to ensure houses conform to the general feel of the town, and that they are all subject to approval by council.

Road conditions

Another asked how the town could be looking at adding so many new families in an area that is distant from the village core when the roads in the area are already stressed.

“Why can’t we fix the roads we have first before we start adding to the problem?” she asked.

In response, Mayor Nicholls said they are indeed looking at the required infrastructure and that it is part of the plan. “We have an infrastructure deficit all over town, and we are working on it, but how can we pay for it all without generating new tax revenue?”

Nicholls said he was sympathetic to concerns about road safety, but suggested it also wouldn’t be wise to replace crumbling roads only to have them torn up by construction vehicles. “We’re patching roads all the time,” he said, “but these roads need to be completely replaced, and we’ll look at triggering that to happen at a point when the project is approaching completion.”

Will set precedent for the future

“The way this project is handled will be seen as a precedent for future development actions at Sandy Beach” said Léger Street resident Benjamin Poirier. While not one resident at the meeting said they were completely against the development, and many applauded the idea of welcoming new families and new revenues to town, it was with the wish that development be done prudently, not only within the confines of regulations and laws but with greater input from the public.

Robert said he would happily respond to questions or suggestions directed to him and is open to ideas from the public, and Kurgansky said she is similarly prepared to answer questions or direct comments to council.

Flood questions

One of the biggest concerns to come out during the evening was the fact that the area in question has been flooded for the second time in as many years, while approval for the original proposal and surveys were done prior to 2017.

“Are you going to build the houses on stilts?” asked a local resident who already struggles with water at his foundation. While no backfilling is planned, residents are concerned it may be necessary, which could potentially negatively impact existing homes. Several people asked that an on-the-ground assessment be done in the very short term to see first-hand the state of water levels, and the mayor said he and the developer both committed to doing so.

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