• James Armstrong

Chaline Valley holdout affects adjacent property owners


PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

François Lefebvre is waiting and hoping for a better solution for stabilizing the Quinchien River bank behind his Saint-Lazare house.

All but one property owner implicated in the Chaline Valley stabilization project

have signed the requisite authorizations for the project to proceed according to information released by the City of Saint-Lazare May 15.

As stated in the press release, the property in question is located at 688 rue Charbonneau and by refusing to sign the necessary agreements, the owner has jeopardized 11 adjacent properties. The 12 properties are designated as Site 18 located at a bend in the Quinchien River prone to large-scale retrogressive landslides. The owners of the properties included in Site 18 will have to continue to obtain geotechnical studies prior to having any work done in the protected strip of land. This would include new constructions, construction of extensions, secondary buildings, private garages, sheds, garden gazebos, septic systems, above or in-ground pools or spas, excavations and backfills.

Garden at risk

“The thing is, I would have to move my entire garden,” François Lefebvre told The Journal May 15 as he took time out from tilling his neighbour’s garden. Lefebvre’s backyard is a collection of trees and plants that extends down the embankment toward the Quinchien River. He said the stabilization project would completely remove all the trees and vegetation including a maple that is probably over 100 years old and many expensive shrubs and trees he has planted over the years.

The problem, in Lefebvre’s opinion, is that area of his backyard will become a 45-degree angled bare slope with shrubs and trees provided by the government when the project is complete.

“The agreement says we won’t be able to plant or do anything in that space,” he said. “I asked them to do it in terraces down to the river but they wouldn’t,” he said. He had also suggested a retaining wall or perhaps redirecting the river in that area. Those ideas were also rejected. Moving all his plantings, including the trees, would be an expensive and time-consuming project.

“Because there won’t be any damage to the house, they won’t buy the property,” he added. As for his neighbours who are implicated in his decision to holdout, Lefebvre hopes they won’t take legal action against him.

“If that happens, I will have to seek legal advice,” he said. He estimated property values in his neighbourhood are between $450,000 to $500,000 per residence and he is willing to sell if there is an interested buyer.

Pitting neighbour against neighbour

“I think the whole process was not well conceived from the beginning,” said neighbour Benoît Tremblay. “The town should have been more empathetic when talking to people about the work.” He said the city had behaved in a highhanded manner and some people who signed felt forced to do so. “Now they are pitting him against his neighbours,” said Tremblay who is a candidate in the upcoming District 3 by-election.

The Chaline Valley stabilization project was a topic of discussion during the first question period and the focus of several resolutions at the regular council meeting held May 14. Lefebvre presented council with a copy of an article from Journal de Montréal regarding the flood situation in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac saying the two situations were similar. He pointed out the article recommended planting trees and shrubs to counteract the effects of soil erosion.

“Here, we are cutting trees,” said Lefebvre as he asked council to give the idea their attention. Mayor Robert Grimaudo replied the situations were not the same. Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac has to do with a dike and in Chaline Valley, the stabilization of the river banks.

During the meeting, council approved a resolution confirming to the Ministry of Public Safety and the Ministry of Transport that permissions had been received by the city from property owners directly affected by the stabilization work with the exception of 12 addresses comprising Site 18.

City offers to purchase property

Council also approved a resolution to make an offer to purchase two properties in the Chaline Valley Stabilization project zone. The properties are located at 728 and 736 rue Charbonneau. The proposed purchase price was not revealed but would be determined by the Ministry of Public Security.

“First of all, the owners haven’t accepted the offer to purchase,” said Grimaudo following the council meeting. He said the city is offering to purchase the two properties because they will not have backyards behind the houses once the project is finished. “We haven’t decided what to do with those properties when the stabilization project is done,” added the mayor. Plans to purchase the two properties existed from the beginning phase of the project, according to the mayor.