Review of Saint-Lazare environmental protection map raises concerns and questions
By John Jantak
THE JOURNAL FILE PHOTO/JOHN JANTAK
Questions over property owners’ rights were brought up at the February 9 Saint-Lazare town council meeting.
Concerns about the possible redrawing of its environmental protection map which could result in homeowners on the private portion of Sandmere Road being unable to build on their land was raised during question period during the live stream of the Saint-Lazare council meeting on Tuesday evening, February 9.
The issue was raised by Roger Caristo and his wife who asked council to clarify the city’s stance regarding the possible inclusion of their properties into the adjacent lands that are environmentally protected from development.
The couple firmly disputed the city’s apparent intent on possibly expanding the protected environmental zone to include their land on Sandmere Road under the pretext of preserving a larger swath of the neighbouring forest. Their land was originally purchased with the intention of building another home on it.
The couple stated that at the time of purchase, their land was zoned equestrian and eventually became residential. Discussions with the mayor and other elected officials led the homeowners to believe there was a high likelihood that the private portion of the road where they live would eventually be made public. Residents were advised the city would apply for government subsidies to ease the costs homeowners would incur.
If the road was acquired by the city, land owners were asked whether they would prefer to pay their portion of costs over a 20-year period that would be added to their municipal taxes or to pay the entire sum up front. The city’s proposal was viewed as a stepping stone to de-privatize Sandmere Road which would allow homeowners the freedom to enjoy and use their land any way they choose.
The couple are also concerned that if their land falls within the parameters of the city’s environmental commitment regarding green space preservation they won’t be able to proceed with their construction plans and their land would become worthless.
Caristo and his wife would prefer the city’s environmental preservation initiative would take place on land owned by the municipality so that property owners can use their land the way they want to without taking a financial hit on their investment. They also asked council how they would feel if they were in a similar situation.
Pro-Mayor Geneviève Lachance, who chaired the meeting, said the city is not rezoning land into green space. “What we’ve doing right now is depositing a draft by-law project and it’s only to change a map in our zoning By-law 771. We’re not rezoning your land into green space. We’re just changing the map. It will stay residential,” said Lachance.
“There are a lot of zones in Saint-Lazare that have high ecological value which were identified years ago. Over the years we continued to identify these sensitive zones that have high ecological value. We know they provide a lot of benefits to our residents including the recharging of our underground water supply. We’re not only talking about protecting trees but also our entire ecosystem,” she added.
Public consultation planned
Lachance said the city will hold a public consultation process so that residents on the street will be able to voice their concerns and opinions regarding the redrawing of the city’s environment zone map. “We’re listening to what you’re saying and are taking everything into consideration. After we deposit this motion tonight there will be a public consultation,” said Lachance.
“Without everybody’s opinion we’re missing a piece of the puzzle to make a decision. We want to give everyone a chance to voice their comments and after that we can actually get together with the people in urban planning and try to figure out what’s in the best interests of Saint-Lazare.