MAMH investigation expected in Saint-Lazare regarding west end development moratorium
PHOTO COURTESY RICHARD CHARTRAND
A developer opening roads, cutting trees, and carrying out hydrological studies in the west end of Saint-Lazare is causing division in council.
An investigation by the Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l’Habitation (MAMH) of the Ville de Saint-Lazare is expected to take place in the near future – news of which was revealed during a conversation with Mayor Robert Grimaudo, Councillor Richard Chartrand and The Journal on Tuesday, June 11 following the town council meeting.
Chartrand took issue with recent tree-cutting and the widening of an entrance road to access land in the west end of town on du Fief Road earmarked by a developer for a housing project. According to Chartrand, the developer was cutting more than 100 trees and installing a well. The land in question is owned by Réjean Pilon also the owner of Excavation et Construction A.B.R. Ltée.
“He’s the only contractor to have a private meeting with caucus and the administration to sell us his project,” said Chartrand. Despite a recent moratorium invoked by council on development in the west end of the city, Chartrand alleged the administration and the mayor were giving Pilon preferential treatment.
“MAMH is coming to investigate because things have not been done correctly,” Chartrand stated adding he looked forward to meeting them.
During an interview on Tuesday, June 18, Mayor Grimaudo confirmed that the MAMH is investigating the moratorium.
“Right now, MAMH isn’t coming here, yet. They have asked for all of the documents pertaining to the moratorium,” said Grimaudo. When asked if they were investigating anything else, he replied in the affirmative but declined to elaborate. According to the mayor, an investigation carried out by MAMH, the administrative body for all Quebec municipalities, is supposed to be kept confidential until it is completed.
“We are not allowed to say anything about it until they have looked into the matter,” he noted. “I will not comment on the accusations and insinuations made by Mr. Chartrand. They are untrue. There is no relationship between me and Mr. Pilon.”
Tree-cutting on development site
According to the mayor, the developer had received a tree-cutting permit from the city.
“Mr. Pilon is not building his project. He has to install piezometers (an instrument for studying pressure of a liquid or gas) to do a hydrological study,” said Grimaudo adding the study was required by the Ministry of the Environment and the testing was being carried out on private property.
Communications Director Geneviève Hamel confirmed on Thursday, June 13 that Pilon had received permission from the town for the access road to install equipment for the hydrological study and a permit to cut 138 trees. Hamel said the moratorium pertained to building permits, not to other permits.
Chartrand elaborated further on his opinion in an email regarding the moratorium. He stated the current Saint-Lazare town council voted on a moratorium west of Saint-Charles to block all developers and promoters including the opening of streets, the cutting of trees, and the installation of piezometers.
“The mayor gives no instructions to the administration to stop him. The city administration does not do its duty either and does not respect the directives of the council. The mayor and the city are in serious trouble,” he wrote.
The previous town council passed a resolution in July, 2017 giving the developer permission to open roads. According to Councillor Geneviève Lachance, Pilon never met the criteria set forth by the revised schema published by the Municipalité régionale de comté Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS).
The west end area in question is zoned equestrian/agricultural and the proposed developer had the acquired right to smaller building lots than currently permitted in the zone. Concerned residents from the district presented council with a petition in July, 2018 listing a number of points including a request the town enforce the current regulations concerning lot size for the area.
Pressure from citizens in the ensuing months contributed to council declaring a moratorium on development in that area in November, 2018. The resolution did not pass unanimously as former Councillor Pamela Tremblay and the mayor voted against it.
Both Grimaudo and Tremblay expressed concerns with the lack of a time-frame and the need to consider a town-wide moratorium.