Letter to the editor 1, June 25, 2020
Dear Editor, I am deeply disappointed in the community engagement process for the proposed Willowbrook housing development project in Hudson. To date, there has been no formal communication between the town, or council, and the current residents of Hudson regarding this project despite many attempts of residents to initiate. Rather, residents recently informally discovered that infrastructure (roads, sewers, ditches) for 'Stage 1' (30 blocks) of the project would begin on Léger Lane within weeks. It is remarkable that even though the town and council is aware of the interest many residents have in seeing a sustainable and equitable outcome, that we learnt about how this project is progressing via informal channels, again.
Mayor Jamie Nicholls has publicly stated that he will not allow backfilling or building on any wetlands. Yet some Stage 1 blocks proposed on Léger Lane will be on wetland. Furthermore, a 'staged’ approach could limit our council’s ability to properly consider the cumulative and town-wide impacts that a more holistic assessment would afford. The Eco2Urb report (which cost $80,000) was supposed to provide scientific evidence and tools for residents, council and town officials to ensure urban planning places protection of our unique natural environment at its base layer. The report is still not publicly available on the town’s website, despite being completed. Residents were told by council that Eco2Urb’s recommendations would be reviewed and made public before any decision was made on this or other large-scale developments. You can understand then my surprise upon hearing infrastructure work was imminent.
The Léger Lane forested wetlands are unique – Hudson has multiple biological studies to support this. Indeed, due to the presence of endangered species, it is being assessed by the Quebec government as an Exceptional Forest Ecosystem, one important to protect in its entirety. Not only that, the development envelope contains a provincially registered heritage site significant to Hudson’s cultural identity – The Ottawa (Como) Glassworks.
Elected officials must use best available evidence and complete due diligence before making decisions. Is council actually going to ‘approve’ a staged approach to this project before the Eco2Urb report has been publicly released and adopted into our by-laws? Before the government has concluded its assessment? Will it allow the heritage site to be destroyed? Is this the Hudson we want? Ask your councillor.
The ineffective communication and lack of transparency that has become synonymous with this project is counterintuitive to building trust in our community.