Saint-Lazare landowners willing to sell their land to the city for fair market value
By John Jantak
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
Saint-Lazare residents Roger Caristo and Juanita Croft said if the city requires their land for the preservation of additional green space and for its aquifer system it should be purchased at fair market value.
The prospect of having their land expropriated to become a part of Saint-Lazare’s green space conservation plan without any sort of financial compensation being offered by the city prompted Roger Caristo and his wife Juanita Croft to reach out to The Journal to talk about their predicament.
The couple first raised the issue with the city during the latest council session which was live-streamed on February 9 but were disappointed with the responses they received regarding their plight from the councillors and Pro-Mayor Geneviève Lachance who chaired the meeting.
Caristo and Croft bought a 32,000 square-foot lot on Sandmere Road about eight years ago as an investment assuming they would eventually be able to build a house on it for their son. Caristo said other people own several lots and some people have been landowners for 50 years.
They aren’t opposed to the city’s initiative to expand its green canopy or to protect land for its aquifer system. They feel they should be compensated for the current value of the land if the city requires it. “We were told no purchases will be made and we can’t get permits to build on it. What are our options here?” asked Caristo.
“Everyone is sensitive about climate change and I don’t think anyone in their right mind is against saving forests. It’s just that it’s being done at our cost which is a little bit much for us,” said Croft.
Land would be worthless
If the land does eventually become a part of Saint-Lazare’s green canopy then their land and investment would be rendered worthless, according to Croft. “We will get zero enjoyment out of it unless we want to sit there in a chair and feed the birds or something. The land value will go to nothing,” she said.
“Since the council is so adamant about saving the land because of the aquifer recharging zone and everything else that we have, I wanted to propose to the councillors since we have the land for sale, I would sell it to any of them to save Saint-Lazare’s water for $300,000 which is what the market value of the land is for 32,000 square feet, roughly $10 a square foot,” said Caristo.
“We’re talking big dollars and we only have one lot. Some people have eight lots and the city is toying with this like it’s not important. If they really want to save what it is they’re saving, and we’re not against it, then come up with the money for what the market value is for the land,” added Caristo.
Croft said they’re willing to work with council to find alternatives that will allow them to use their land including limiting the number of trees that would be cut for a new house on their lot. She views the city’s intentions to acquire their and other homeowner’s land as a disguised expropriation.
“If we can’t do anything with it and they’re going to save water for the citizens, the city is going to be doing it at our expense,” said Caristo. “They’re not even offering to buy the land from us. They’re just asking us to preserve it as deep forest land.”
Mayor Robert Grimaudo declined to comment on the matter until further review of the file.