• Nick Zacharias

Hudson wetland by-law creates outpouring of dissent


PHOTO COURTESY VILLE DE HUDSON

The detailed map of area wetlands with both 10 and 30-metre buffer zones has residents posing questions on how the proposed By-law 526.8 will affect existing property values and future development.

*Update - See bottom of the page for Mayor Nicholls' update posted on Facebook November 28

Hudson’s draft By-law 526.8 concerning the protection of wetlands, scheduled for a final vote by council at the next meeting on December 2, is continuing to draw a lot of attention. There are many homeowners who fear their property values will be negatively impacted by inclusion in the proposed, extended 30-metre boundary around recognized wetlands. Under the by-law, new construction would be banned within the protective zone and that zone applies equally to existing properties and new developments.

Lots of negative attention

There has been considerable focus on potential negative aspects of the draft on social media and online platforms, as well as in an anonymously written letter delivered to area residents outlining aspects of the draft by-law that the issuer says could affect property values. The most frequently voiced concerns include the ability to use machinery to landscape lawns, the right to install new structures like pools or gazebos on existing properties, and the right to re-build an existing home (that now falls within the 30-metre boundary) in the event of a catastrophic fire. Outspoken opponent District 5 Councillor Jim Duff has called the by-law an, ‘indiscriminate bludgeon.’

Nothing is final yet

At last week’s small, informal district meeting for Hudson-East, the district of Councillor Austin Rikley-Krindle who first brought forward the motion, both Mayor Jamie Nicholls and Director General Philip Toone were in attendance, along with Councillor Rikley-Krindle, to listen to residents and speak about the intent of the by-law. They also discussed how they can (and cannot) accommodate concerns.

Many see the proposal as a legal way to reduce the size of large scale new developments in town but Toone underscored that By-law 526.8 is in no way to stop development but to protect wetlands. “According to the current Quebec environmental protection act, a wetland is a wetland, regardless of what’s there already,” he said.

The mayor also said that for a case like this, where they are going beyond what all but one other municipality in the province has done for preventing incursion into wetlands, they were motivated by a desire to put a pause on any new construction until they have all the tools (expected in a few months) to be better able to accurately determine which areas are most sensitive and which areas that currently fall under the new line may not need to – depending on elevation or other factors.

Between now and the time of the final vote, council has promised to amend the wording of the draft by-law to ‘grandfather’ certain land uses for existing homeowners. They discussed adding wording to permit landscaping and lawn maintenance and to repair, refurbish, or completely replace any previously existing structures (pools, decks, sheds, and houses included) as long as they remain within their original footprint. What would not be permitted would be completely new structures, like new swimming pools or house additions that extend to within 30-metres of a wetland.

Council divided, but expected to pass

Though the method and the speed with which this by-law came forward has been questioned, the clock is ticking on it one way or another, as it must be approved by the first week of December to take effect. As they weigh the interests of individual homeowners, large scale developers, and environmental protection, Hudson council is split on this by-law. Mayor Nicholls is expected to cast the deciding vote in favour, though nothing is certain before council convenes next Monday evening.

*Update

Dear Citizens, After much discussion with caucus members and the mover of bylaw 526.8, Mr. Austin Rikely-Krindle, the provisions of the bylaw in article 726 which expanded the protective band surrounding wetlands from 10 to 30 metres have been modified. The protective band will remain at the original 10 metres in the amended bylaw to be presented at the December session of council.

Without the data that will soon be provided by our consultants, Eco2urb, I cannot in good conscience propose to move forward with the expansion of the protective band. The intent was to protect wetlands to the greatest extent possible and to not cause them harm.

However, after listening to all citizens at the public consultation, receiving letters, electronic communications and discussions with citizens at district meetings, I realized quickly that the proposed provisions in article 726 to increase the buffer were causing great stress and undue harm to citizens who would be affected by the changes.

I appreciate your patience in waiting for this response and apologies for any inconvenience. Should you have questions please do not hesitate to contact your council member or me.

Yours faithfully,

Jamie Nicholls Mayor

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