Letter to the editor 1, Nov. 28, 2019

Open letter to Hudson Mayor Jamie Nicholls and members of council

I am writing to express my concerns about the 30-metre setback draft by-law which is set to be adopted by resolution at the December 2019 council meeting.

Even well intended regulations can have disastrous consequences if the possible repercussions are not considered. To desire to protect wetlands and wooded areas is commendable and I'm sure most Hudson citizens will applaud your efforts to want to do more; however, there are many ways to do so but this by-law, in my opinion, will cause undue hardship for some homeowners.

Here are my concerns:

If everyone had acres of land with tons of rooms for all kinds of setbacks to protect every sensitive area, wetland, and all the fauna and flora, this law would not be an issue but the reality is that most homeowners who will be affected live in an urban setting and don't have that luxury.

Imposing a 30-metre setback, triple what the province legislates, is not necessary and will have a detrimental effect on the properties affected. This is not what these Hudson taxpayers expected when they purchased their home and I'm sure it is causing them a lot of stress.

Imposing these restrictions is flirting with expropriation for the idealism of conservation but it's expropriation no less, and may even be construed as confiscation. When towns expropriate property for one reason or another, owners are usually compensated after negotiations. Is the town prepared to go this route? Are the homeowners even willing to sell part of their backyard?

If council chooses to impose this very restrictive setback it will seriously prejudice a good number of property owners. Any restrictions put on a property become a negative in an evaluation. A similar house without restrictions would fetch a higher price than one with restrictions, just ask any competent real estate agent.

The fact that this new buffer zone would disallow any permanent installations (pools, children’s play structures, gazebos, fences, garages, etc.) would limit the owner or a potential buyer as to his choices on what he could or could not do with the property. Not to mention the insurance issue if present structures were to burn down and owners were restricted in rebuilding.

As the owner of a waterfront property who suffered no damage to either home, pool, or accessory buildings during the two floods, I can tell you that it was a great source of stress to find ourselves originally on the province's Zone d'intervention spéciale (ZIS) map. Although this was corrected in a subsequent map, it was not before causing us undue prejudice while our home was listed for sale. That is what happens when you rush things.

For some waterfront owners whose property is in the ZIS flood zone, some would now be further hampered by an extra buffer, should a small creek or wetland be located on it. It's a double whammy. Add the other 200+ properties which would be affected by the 30-metre setback and you have a recipe for a real estate evaluation disaster. Try and put yourselves in these residents' shoes.

Perhaps the town wouldn't need to implement this 30-metre set back if the present 10-metre rule was always respected. Why not focus instead on educating these homeowners who are, after all, the custodians of a piece of nature? Council could consider the following suggestions that would likely get the backing of citizens.

-Insist that the present 10-metre setback is respected, educate and encourage homeowners to plant the right shrubs in order to prevent erosion and keep the creeks/Viviry, all the cours d'eaux clean and prevent silting.

-For all new homes, insist on rain capturing cisterns/rain barrels and limit waterproof areas (alternatives to asphalt driveways, when possible).

-Insist on installation of electricity infrastructure to plan for an eventual car charging station.

-Encourage soft vs hard landscaping with retention basins.

-Avoid solid stone or wood retaining walls.

-Prioritize siting accessory buildings in order to limit tree cutting

-Encourage planting alternatives to grass near sensitive areas.

-Limit fences, save for pools, and prioritize non-opaque ones to encourage the wildlife corridors.

As far as Sandy Beach, I doubt council has any choice but to honour agreements previously signed. Moving the goal posts after the town has given the go-ahead will surely result in expensive lawsuits and a prejudice to all taxpayers who will have to foot the bill. You can, however, negotiate more eco-friendly builds.

The Como Bog Development? I don't like it, you don't like it, but when a higher level of government gives its okay, council's hands are tied. Again, negotiate builds that will lessen environmental impact.

If residents are serious about preservation and conservation, as I am sure they are, I would suggest starting a special land trust, with a yearly donation/membership fee, an example is the Brome Lake Land Foundation in Lac Brome.

The money from such a fund could be earmarked to purchase certain wetlands from landowners passionate about conservation. Good to note that landowners who donate land for conservation to the Land Trust are exempted from property taxes in Lac Brome. Same could be done in Hudson.

Please go back to the drawing board.

Diane Piacente

Former Hudson Town Councillor and Interim Mayor

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