Building opposition in Hudson
By Nick Zacharias
THE JOURNAL FILE PHOTO
Multiple planned or in-progress projects in Hudson are raising questions about rapid density increases, as well as forest conservation for developments planned in previously unbuilt areas.
*Note - the printed version of this week's The Journal includes a photo which the caption describes as mixed commercial and residential. The building is, in fact, purely commercial. The Journal regrets the error.
The December online meeting of the Hudson town council saw some dissent amongst councillors over more new construction approvals, an apparent reversal on changing the recently-narrowed lanes on Bellevue, and numerous residents voicing opposition to planned large-scale developments. Council also highlighted some achievements and offered recognition to long-standing town employees.
Hudson was recognized with third prize amongst municipalities across the province for their civil security improvement plan. The award from the Mutuelle des municipalités du Quebec comes with $2,500 to fund training. Said Mayor Jamie Nicholls, “I just want to extend my congratulations to Chief Dan Leblanc and his great team at Public Security.”
The mayor also highlighted the service of several employees celebrating milestone anniversaries, notably Director of Public Works, Parks and Green Spaces Iain Dalgarno who has worked with the town for 25 years.
Conflict over new builds
The evening’s agenda called for votes on seven new construction projects, five of which were approved – though not without dissent. District 1 Councillor Helen Kurgansky opposed a single-family dwelling on Royalview (at Sandy Beach) but was outvoted. Next, the Town Planning Advisory Committee (TPAC) recommended refusing an application for a new house at 62 Main Road, but council decided to disregard the recommendation and proceed with approval. Councillor Kurgansky and District 2 Councillor Austin Rikley-Krindle both opposed that one, but again were outvoted by the remaining three members.
Asked in question period to explain her opposition to the house at Sandy Beach, Kurgansky began to say the proposed detached house, on top of the hundreds of other units planned, would be, “very close to the 100-year floodplain,” and also very close to the entryway for the beach, but was interrupted with a call of, “…come on Councillor Kurgansky, it’s outside the ZIS, point of correction,” from District 6 Councillor Daren Legault. She reiterated that she had said it was outside but very close to the floodplain (commonly referred to by the French acronym ZIS) and then was interrupted again by District 5 Councillor Jim Duff who said, “Point of information, this is a misrepresentation of the facts,” with no further explanation.
Mayor Nicholls said, “The rest of council do not have the liberty to take what would essentially put the town into legal jeopardy should we follow Miss Kurgansky’s orientation.” He followed by pointing out that many lots in Hudson are close to, or within, the floodplain (as drawn in 2019), and chose to cite Kurgansky’s own house as an example.
Bellevue lanes here to stay?
Though several councillors have said recently that the reduced lane widths on Bellevue could be re-evaluated in the spring, Mayor Nicholls appeared to refute that notion in response to a question from resident June Penney. “The lane widths have been shown to be fine. They are safe enough,” he said, underscoring that the narrower lanes were intended to slow traffic. “Bellevue residents have claimed that the traffic has slowed down, and they wish to keep it that way,” he added.
Resident Trevor Smith wrote to urge council to take heed of a 348-signature petition he submitted, asking the town to reassess its recent spate of new housing approvals. He also said, “Council has a history of ignoring petitions and yet it is obvious that there is no consensus for the level of present development and expansion of Hudson’s population.”
Nicholls categorized ideas of changing the development plan as, “wishful thinking.” He said opposing plans handed down to Hudson from the Communauté metropolitaine de Montreal (CMM) and the Municipalité régionale de comté (MRC) “…requires amendments that are very difficult to make,” and so they prefer to work with the regional bodies to, “…do our best to make sure they fit our idea of what Hudson is.”
For a large and vocal number of people that idea does not include hundreds of new condominiums in three-storey buildings on what is currently forested land at Sandy Beach.
Citizens from as far as Rigaud and Sainte-Marthe joined the Zoom meeting to question the logic of reducing the town’s limited tree cover. David Pharand of regional environmental action group MARE joined the meeting to announce their intention to go, with the support several other environmental groups, directly to the Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC with a proposition to protect the entire Sandy Beach area as an important regional asset for its biodiversity, its role in protecting against floods, and its unique status as a parcel of nature the likes of which few parks can match.
Roxanne from Rigaud joined the meeting to question the validity of the 2002 referendum often cited by council as a turning point in approving the development. “Children who were born after that referendum are now old enough to vote. Do you not find this referendum is a little out of date?” Councillor Duff responded by saying it’s too late to change anything. “The site is sold,” he said. “It will be developed. The only way to change the destiny of Sandy Beach is if the MRC decides to buy it … or if you want to buy it, go ahead – let’s see the colour of your money.”