Urban development and protecting wetlands on Saint-Lazare agenda
PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG
A change of plans is in process with Saint-Lazare for the Place Verdé development project including an increase in the area of conserved of wetlands.
Protecting wetlands, forests, and environmentally sensitive areas in the face of urban development were subjects raised during the Saint-Lazare monthly town council meeting Tuesday, July 9. Council approved a resolution pertaining to a housing development project northeast of the intersection of Chemin Sainte-Angélique and Côte Saint-Charles that makes changes to overall plans for the project. The developer requested modifications to the plan for environmental reasons for the project known as Place Verdé.
In the course of their work, the developer realized they were attempting to excavate in a wetland area. According to the resolution, the developer requested increased space allocated to wetlands, a reduction in the number of building lots, an increase in the area dedicated to green space, the removal of two public roads and two access roads from Chemin Sainte-Angélique.
Developer reported wetland issue
“When the developer realized there was a problem, he stopped the work and came to us with his request,” said Mayor Robert Grimaudo following the meeting. “What the resolution does is give us time to review the project,” said Councilor Geneviève Lachance. She added the plan had been approved by the previous council. “Originally, the development plan was a lot of houses. His biologist told him it couldn’t happen and he needed to conserve 30 per cent of the land,” said Grimaudo. There was considerable back and forth between the developer and the town, according to the mayor, and the conserved area was increased to 40 per cent.
“With tonight’s resolution it is now 49 per cent,” said the mayor. Both Lachance and the mayor referred to a characterization report produced by Genivar Inc. several years earlier that recommended environmental protection for the area that contains an old growth Hemlock forest and wetlands. Saint-Lazare, to date, has not completely protected the area.
When asked why the developer had not been required to apply to the Quebec Ministry of Environment for permission regarding wetlands and development, Lachance replied, “The original plans pretty much showed he wasn’t touching any wetlands.”
Informing the Ministry of the Environment
According to the mayor, the town has not, to date, reported the matter to the Ministry of the Environment.
“We found out about it and had the discussion today,” said the mayor, adding the developer also has a responsibility to inform the ministry.
“It goes back to the issue that developers mandate their own biologists and that’s a problem at the provincial level,” said Lachance. “His biologist made a mistake and the developer needs to make a new report with the corrections regarding the wetlands,” she said.
Faced with a multi-million dollar stabilization project in Chaline Valley, Lachance said the current council would probably not have approved the Place Verdé project. “Building on wetlands is not a good idea,” she said. “We have some by-laws we are proposing for the protection of wetlands.”
“We’re not building on wetlands. We need to be clear about that,” said Grimaudo adding there’s room for improvement in the town’s approach to building projects in wetland areas. “We have to do a lot more homework before approving these projects.”