Main differences in Hudson
PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS
Discussions about the revitalization of Hudson’s Main Road evoked much input from residents via Zoom meetings and social media platforms leading council to make amendments to the plan in time for the November council meeting.
November’s Hudson Town Council meeting opened with Mayor Jamie Nicholls highlighting some initiatives council has put in motion over the past three years, including creating a plan to prioritize re-paving projects, capitalizing on grants available from the Communauté metropolitaine de Montreal (CMM), and presenting a plan for the revitalization of Main Road through the village core. There were also some hard questions asked by citizens about accountability.
New plan for Main Road
The plan that was put together for the revitalization of the Main Road corridor, produced by Stantec, funded by a grant from the CMM and done with the input of 150 citizens who attended a public consultation meeting last March, was presented on October 27. It received loud and immediate opposition both during the live meeting (which took place via Zoom, like regular council meetings, but was not recorded) and afterwards on social media. Council quickly discussed and offered amendments to the plan in time for the regular council meeting six days later, namely a 50 per cent reduction in the amount of space dedicated to ‘green strips’ of vegetation to be planted between the sidewalks and the narrowed road, and an increase in space for street parking, loading, and for waste receptacles among other things. The slideshow from the presentation can be found on the town’s website.
Citizens surprised by results
Many who were at the initial consultation commented that the plan did not seem to reflect what they were hearing from groups who contributed ideas. Big points of contention were the planted strips and the absence of a bicycle lane. Resident June Penney wrote in to ask if the results of the group sessions would be made public, and if there would be some recourse for the public to contest the plan if approved as is.
Nicholls responded that she was welcome to come in and make a request for the document. He also said that the plan was not subject to a referendum, and reiterated his statement from the beginning of the meeting – that council had listened to the public’s concerns at the beginning, middle and end of the planning process, and will continue to listen to the public’s concerns, “…but now momentum requires that council act in order to get the planning and construction phases done… council would like to begin construction at the beginning of the next construction season, rather than at the end to ensure that construction is not subject to a closing window of opportunity.”
PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS
Main Road in Hudson, with its uneven sidewalks and pot-holed pavement, is the subject of a major renewal plan, though many have voiced opposition to the proposed reduction in road width – specifically the lack of room for bicycle traffic (also known as ‘active transit’), the potential challenges for trucks or buses with large turning radiuses, and the potential problems with choosing plants for the remaining proposed ‘green strips’ between the sidewalks and the road at curb level.
No room for a bike lane
The rapid amendments did not include a dedicated lane for bicycle safety. The restructuring of Bellevue includes a multi-use lane for cyclists, pedestrians and Oka ferry traffic overflow, but room will not be made on Main Road. “Let’s not fall prey to the idea that we can promise a dedicated cycling path,” said District 5 Councillor Jim Duff, comparing the ability to control kids on bikes from hurtling into traffic on Main Road to the ability to stop people from crossing into traffic on Highway 20. “We have to be sure we don’t lull people into a false sense of security by saying yes we have a dedicated cycling path.”
In the second question period, resident Eva McCartney wanted to know, “What obligation, if any, do council and the mayor have to respond to citizens? What accountability is there to deal with inquiries?” She explained she had sent emails to her councillor requesting information on the cost of a paving on Como Gardens, specifically asking that if he didn’t know the answer, he direct her to someone who did, but received no answer or even an acknowledgement. “I do not send a lot of letters, only a handful a year,” she said, to underline her disappointment at the lack of response.
Mayor Nicholls responded that there was no protocol, and that all the councillors respond differently. “We all get a lot of email, and we all try our best,” he said.
Possible conservation money
Towards the end of regular business, council approved a motion to request funding from the CMM for conservation projects in the east end of town. Nicholls later expanded that the request would be for a grant in the $50,000-$100,000 range, likely to be put toward rehabilitation of public trails.