Letter to the editor 3, Nov. 28, 2019
On November 18 a public consultation for Hudson citizens was held concerning the proposed amendment By-law 526.8 to increase the buffer zone for wetlands from 10 metres, the minimum recommended by the province, to 30 metres. One of the first questions asked by a concerned citizen was, ‘Can I rebuild my home if it burns down in a fire and it is located within the 30m buffer zone?’ The answer from Mayor Jamie Nicholls was, ‘NO.’ You could feel the outrage in the room. This would be devastating for even one property owner but it is estimated that 50+ homeowners could be affected in this way.
A couple of days later I attended a District 2 meeting and Councillor Austin Rikley-Krindle and Mayor Nicholls announced they would add a grandfather clause. Most people in the room agreed that this would be a step in the right direction and would provide an adequate provision to protect property owners. However, when the question was asked if we could we have flexibility for new extensions, garages, pools, decks, fences and cabanas where there were none before, the answer was ‘NO.’ When the question was asked how this would affect property values, the answer was, ‘I don’t know.’
When the question was asked if we could have different distances in the buffer zone, the answer was ‘NO,’ the 30 metres is blanketed. “It’s the law,” said the mayor and councillor.
All these ‘NOs’ sent a panic through our town. This answer could have been avoided. If council had simply done their homework, every ‘NO’ above would be a ‘YES!’
For instance, the mayor informed us that Chelsea, Quebec was the first town in the province to increase the buffer zone to 30m. However, what he didn’t tell us was that the 30m buffer only applies to wetlands of lots cadastered after their by-law was adopted. A 15m buffer zone was created for lots cadastered before the by-law was created providing the much needed flexibility for existing property owners. There is even the possibility for minor derogations within the 15m buffer zone.
Chelsea could be a model for balancing the protection of wetlands with the needs of property owners. Instead, our mayor is moving forward recklessly without giving it time to properly research adequate solutions for Hudson. Hundreds of comments on Facebook, emails, text and letters and massive threats of lawsuits, citizens losing sleep, stress, anger and frustration! All this could have been avoided by beginning with a simple phone call to Melissa Chabot at the town of Chelsea whom I spoke to personally and was happy to answer all my questions.
I am all for protecting our wetlands but not the way it’s presently being proposed by our council. According to the newly amended “Loi 132 concernant la conservation des milieu humides et hydriques,” we have two years to come up with a “plan de conservation des milieu humides.” Most think we could lose, yet again, more wetlands if Hudson doesn’t act now but there are even provisions for that: “Le règlement de contrôle intermédiaire” is something that was also not presented to us.
Time for good planning is needed if we want to find the right solutions for both the citizens of Hudson and our wetlands.
Our mayor is quoted as saying he will not be bullied. Well, neither will his citizens.