NDIP mayor and council unswayed by protests
By Carmen Marie Fabio
PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO
The burnt-out shell of a vandalized excavator (background) sits at a property on 64th Avenue in Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot where a contested housing development is currently under construction.
Given the recent spate of protests over a 17-house development, it was a relatively sedate Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot council meeting, again held via Zoom due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Mayor Danie Deschênes opened the meeting by addressing some of the comments made over social media platforms by those expressing their views on the planned widespread development for 2021, including the 17-house project on 64th Avenue in an area known to have White oak trees and Western chorus frog habitats.
“We’re not becoming another ‘Brossard’,” she said in reference to a comment on the development. “On the contrary – the council, and residents, are proud that in Notre-Dame, we are 70 per cent agricultural (zoned) with a forested area of 34 per cent. We will remain agricultural and will never change the agricultural zoning to expand neighbourhoods.”
Deschênes went on to say there was no ‘conspiracy’ being hatched and no surprise rezoning on the horizon.
Private land zoned as residential
“With private land that’s been zoned residential for over 50 years, we have three choices – buy the land for $82 million which would cost each home an additional approximate $730 in annual taxes for 30 years. The second option would be expropriation which would end up in court. The rights of the property owners are inalienable (meaning they can’t be given or taken away by a government.) The third option was to respect the landowner and allow the construction with the authorization of the Minister of the Environment.” Deschênes reiterated that 56 per cent of the forested area, and its wetland zones, would be preserved and that the Environment Ministry had done three separate studies before granting the building permit.
The 64th Avenue project is just one of five planned beginning this year which will total roughly an additional 100 houses in the town.
Deschênes continued her opening remarks by saying it’s the council’s job to manage the city and their vision is still one of equilibrium, to assure the quality of life for its residents and to meet its financial obligations.
“The budget has risen between seven and 15 per cent,” she said, “and we have to work with that.”
PHOTO COURTESY FACEBOOK
Some residents have loudly protested the development plans and have organized a Facebook group titled ‘SOS Boisé des chênes blancs’ in an effort to mobilize and prevent further development.
As reported in The Journal, the group has – to date – organized three protests, the most recent being held outside the office of the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Liberal MP Peter Schiefke who is also the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. That protest was co-organized by the leader of the Provincial Green Party Alex Tyrrell and NDIP resident Sandra Gajdos.
In the early morning hours of March 5, an act of vandalism targeted the heavy machinery at the construction site with fire being set to one of the excavators, an action not condoned by the SOS group.
Mayor disputes online claims
Deschênes said much of what she’s been reading on social media is false information and invites residents to contact her directly, in writing, with any questions or concerns.
She added that since the month of January, no residents had reached out to council directly on this matter. “We received feedback from activists who don’t live here,” she said, “but we don’t respond to people who live outside of Notre-Dame. We’re not the government of citizens of the planet.”
Deschênes added that no residents had taken part in the public consultation on the 64th Avenue project. “Everyone’s busy, we understand. But you have no right to accuse the council or myself of lacking transparency.”
Those opposed to the project maintain the town cancelled the public consultation in August due to COVID-19 restrictions but that, unknown to them, it didn’t cancel the two-week period allowing residents to submit their concerns via email.
The mayor said she’s been surprised by the extent of the protests and pointedly addressed those responsible for the excavator vandalism.
“From a personal point of view, the fire of last Friday has affected my youngest child who’s now afraid to go to sleep. This is not a part of my (mayoral) functions. Council and I are all here for good reasons and council will continue to do its work and will continue to take care of our world.” She said town employees would no longer be mobilized to dig up documents the citizens have been requesting but would focus on upcoming projects in the town including a new fire station and a 75-hectare nature park.