Cautious development in Saint-Lazare
PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS
These trees are stacked at the entrance to a recently cleared road in the Place Verde development in Saint-Lazare. The lifting of the moratorium on building to the west of here on the other side of Côte Saint-Charles has some residents concerned it will mean widespread clearing of old growth forest, but Mayor Robert Grimaudo explained that a new town council resolution means they will protect “most of the trees in that area.”
The December meeting of the Saint-Lazare town council saw residents and council members touch on a number of issues primarily related to development, environmental protection, and the sustainability of potable water for the town. A key resolution was passed that touches all three of those topics, namely the lifting of the construction moratorium in the green corridor on the western end of Saint-Lazare between Côte Saint-Charles and Chemin du Fief.
Water supply for the town
As that sector serves as a recharge zone for the underground water supply, and as it replenishes water not only for Saint-Lazare but for 18 out of 23 municipalities in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC, several residents took to the microphone during question period to ask how the town planned to ensure that demands on water do not outstrip supply in the coming years.
A study is being planned to comprehensively assess the water supply, accounting for residential as well as commercial and industrial demands, to cover the entire MRC region, but it is years away from being completed.
“We are talking to the other municipalities,” said Mayor Robert Grimaudo, indicating that the roots were being laid for wide participation. “They are getting on board. We have COBAVER (Conseil du bassin versant de la région de Vaudreuil-Soulanges) on the committee and we are in talks with a couple of universities to see what they can do. It is estimated that completion of the study will take about four years.”
What’s the rush?
Residents repeatedly questioned the wisdom of lifting the moratorium and allowing development before the results of the water study are known.
“How long will our water supply last?” a resident asked of council. “We have no idea and yet we continue to build.”
“Who else profits from lifting the moratorium, other than the developers?” asked another at the microphone. “What’s the rush?”
Though the results of the MRC-wide study are years away, council assured residents that indications from previous studies show that there is no risk to the aquafer from local development currently planned. Said district 5 Councillor Richard Chartrand, “We see a mature Saint-Lazare as a town of 27,000 to 30,000 residents, not more than that. The study we have from TechnoRem says we have the water for that, with no problems.”
Moratorium was illegal
Part of the urgency for lifting the moratorium was the fact that it was not legal. Said Mayor Grimaudo the day after the meeting, “Council put the moratorium in place a year and a half ago. I voted against it at the time, because it was not legal.” Because of its narrow geographical focus, and the fact that it did not have an expiry date, the moratorium came under investigation by the Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l'Occupation du territoire (MAMOT) and it was ruled that the town must lift the moratorium.
Protections resolved for the environment
The town was obligated to pass a resolution lifting the construction moratorium but they also passed a resolution to protect the natural area. Construction will be permissible, but in a more restricted fashion, and the trees will be largely protected.
“This is the last, untouched zone with old-growth forest in the area,” says Grimaudo. “The resolution we passed means trees cannot be cut, except under a very small, specific set of exceptions.” The text of the resolution outlining exactly where and when tree-cutting will be permitted is available on the town’s website. The mayor says it will mean that the green zone will, for the most part, be conserved.
“As always there are people who are very happy about this and some who are not happy. But we need to protect the environment we have left. We can still grow, but the water and the environment are extremely important. We have to make sure it is there for the future.”