Open letter, Jan. 23, 2020

Open letter

The revision of the PMAD – a priority

The issue of "urban sprawl" has been in the news for several days following the publication, by the Observatoire Grand Montréal, of a note on urbanization in the regions bordering the territory of the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM). Several mayors have already made their reactions known to the observations surprisingly issued by the Observatory, itself linked to the CMM.

I read with interest the open letter from Saint-Colomban Mayor Xavier-Antoine Lalande.

As mayor of a CMM-member municipality and representative of the MRC de Vaudreuil-Soulanges on the CMM board, I agree with my colleague from Saint-Colomban.

It is clear today that the Plan métropolitain d’aménagement et de développement (PMAD) of the CMM has not fulfilled its promises to limit the exodus of young families to the suburbs. Quite the contrary.

Before going further, we need to focus.

The PMAD came into force in 2012 after rapid discussions and a phase of consultations which left several of the cities that form the CMM dissatisfied. The Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC is the only stakeholder to oppose the implementation of this plan. Our opposition made a big splash at the time. It is important to note that I do not disagree with the PMAD. Indeed, I find that it brings essential benefits, not only metropolitan cooperation in public transport, but the establishment of the Green and Blue Corridors and the measures to counter pollution of waterways.

Rather, the opposition of the Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC was motivated by our projections of the consequences of the PMAD on the urbanization of municipalities. More precisely, this planning constrains the cities affected by the PMAD to a high density development. Results – the property value of our sectors with a density ‘bungalow’ type homes explodes and we have to maximize the construction of multi-unit buildings or condo towers.

The ultimate consequence arises when a young family wishes to become the owner of a single-family home; for financial reasons, they will choose to move away from the metropolitan area. This young family will swell the ranks of a municipality outside the territory's CMM such as Saint-Zotique or Rigaud. I don't blame them, not since I would probably do the same when the average price of a house is $335,000 in the towns of Vaudreuil-Soulanges, members of the CMM.

According to data provided by the Observatoire Grand Montréal, this fictitious example is the reality of 7,000 people each year. Indeed, the region metropolitan annually experiences a net deficit of 7,000 residents for the benefit of municipalities outside CMM. These citizens therefore choose to leave the metropolitan region to contribute to urban sprawl, the number-one enemy of the CMM, by turning their back on the philosophy of “always denser.”

Of these, 435 will be established in the non-CMM sector of the Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC. The concept of urban sprawl, I must admit, makes me uncomfortable. What do we call urban sprawl? Do we consider Laval, Longueuil and the West Island examples of urban sprawl? Today, these sectors are part of the urban core within the meaning of the CMM but this was not the case a few decades ago. I asked this question to community experts some time ago. Their silence spoke volumes.

In my opinion, as explained accurately by Prévost Mayor Paul Germain, we should adopt a vision where each region focuses around a local hub rather than targeting Montreal as the central point of the enlarged metropolitan area. This approach is far from being perfect.

The will of the CMM with its PMAD is to densify the sectors near the metropolitan area, especially in areas served by public transit. Very good, but at what cost? My colleague from Saint-Colomban cites the example of the cutting of a White Maple grove to develop this famous density.

The City of Vaudreuil-Dorion faces a similar situation. A project had been submitted for the construction of 80 bungalows on the grounds of an old golf course. In its original theme, the new district benefited from the greenery of the site and the trees were retained. The PMAD forces us to cut trees in order to install more than 300 units of townhouses, condos, etc.

CMM representatives cannot pose as environmentalists while promoting deforestation. The PMAD, rather than strengthening the urban fabric as it is pretending, encourages a donut-hole development with a center that empties at the profit of the suburbs. It’s fundamental error that, in my opinion, comes from the misunderstanding of what citizens want.

They don't want the urban model of Montreal be copied and then pasted in all corners of the CMM regardless of regional particularities. It is this wall-to-wall density that we decried in 2012 which turned out to be problematic.

Let's take a leap back in time and go back to 2017; the moment chosen to review the PMAD. We were eagerly awaiting this moment to contribute to the revision and make the metropolitan plan more true to local reality. We are still waiting for this step.

Indeed, after the CMM has unilaterally asked the government of Quebec to extend the first PMAD for five more years, nothing has been done. This procrastination serves well the interests of certain cities of the CMM which will arrive at their goal – maintain the first formula of PMAD for the next 10 years.

Because, as several mayors say, the entire territory of the CMM is not comparable to Montreal. Because the CMM was committed in 2017 to create a development in harmony with our values, I request a review of the PMAD.

It is important that the result reflects the reality of all cities that make up the CMM. I also request that this new version is the result of a real consultation with the municipalities concerned and that it be produced in a spirit of concertation.

Vaudreuil-Dorion Mayor Guy pilon

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