Beaconsfield broaches local improvement tax

Solving highway noise woes could cost some homeowners more than $50,000

By Robert Frank
Beaconsfield held an information meeting at city hall, July 12, to find out whether citizens will support an initiative to build a concrete sound barrier along highway 20, from St. Charles boulevard to the Pointe Claire border.
“People agree that the solution is a sound wall,” Staddon said. He added that, because building one is so costly, “the city cannot and therefore will not pay for it.”
“So we have to work with the Quebec Ministry of Transport (MTQ), which has offered to pay 50 per cent of the cost,” he continued. “That means that we have to follow their rules.”
Based upon citizens’ response, Beaconsfield city council will consider implementing a local improvement tax this fall, to pay for the city’s share of the $4 million project.
Homeowners in the worst affected zones could wind up paying more than $50,000 each in taxes and interest, spread over several years. Beaconsfield project director André Gervais told The Suburban that the amount is per household and not based upon property value.
Residents who experience the most noise will pay 50 per cent of the cost; those experiencing slightly less will pay 33.33 per cent, and those a bit farther away who experience noise above provincial norms will pay 16.67 per cent. Citizens who experience less than the 50 decibel threshold for normal street noise will pay nothing.
“This is a thought process,” Staddon told residents who attended the information meeting. “We want you to consider what it will cost, how you will realize the benefit and whether you want to move forward with it.”
“In Beaconsfield, we don’t usually have local improvement taxes,” he added. “Council is reluctant to go further until we know whether the citizens involved approve of implementing a local improvement tax.”
In a nutshell, Beaconsfield wants taxpayers to cover the city’s share of the cost of building the wall according the degree that they will benefit.
The costs are based on MTQ estimates that vary widely. During its information meeting, the city cited an MTQ study that estimated that an alternative vegetative wall would cost more than a concrete one.
However, in an interview after the meeting, Gervais told The Suburban that the provincial estimate of the cost of building a concrete wall is two years old and “MTQ now says that by the time a concrete wall is built, it might cost 30 per cent more than the [estimated cost of the] green wall.”
That would be about 50 per cent more expensive than the original forecast cost of building in concrete, undermining the credibility of the MTQ calculation.
City manager Patrice Boileau explained to Beaconsfield citizens that ultimately the true cost of building a wall won’t be known until the project is tendered.
“After that, we don’t have a lot to say,” he said. “Once we go to tender, we lose control.”
“The future is uncertain,” Staddon acknowledged, underscoring the need for Beaconsfielders to decide democratically what is to be done. “It is filled with intangibles like electric cars and public transit.
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