By Tracey Arial
The largest room at the Elgar Centre on Nun’s Island was packed last Monday night for a public consultation hearing into building a second primary school on a triangular part of Park Lafontaine.
The crowded conditions emphasized frustrations the entire community deals with regularly as Quebec’s land use policies pit public services against each another while encouraging private sector expansion.
“There’s always land for condos and no one says anything even if it’s overbuilt,” says Alexandra Delgado, the mother of a five year old who has lived on Nun’s Island for most of her life. “I don’t understand how they’re so adamant. I’m for a school, so if there’s something concrete proposed, I’m going to help it along. There’s no urban planning, so in the end, you take the crumbs to get a school and then they won’t even give us the crumbs.”
Delgado was among 280 people who got a seat at the hearing. Another 145 of us stood at the edges and in the doorway of the room. A few people squeezed onto the floor in the front to sit cross-legged between the audience and tables for officials. Several people who spent half an hour searching for parking within a five block radius of the centre abandoned the effort once they finally arrived.
Children bused daily
The temporary discomfort at the hearing is nothing to what three welcome classes of school children experience daily as they travel to mainland Verdun on buses. The voyage takes an hour and a half each way. Two classes will do the same thing next year. Marguerite Bourgeoys school board (CSMB) officials are planning to open their school by September 2014, but they already project the need for a third school by 2020.
Land deal still under negotiation
Despite the rush, several details of the project aren’t yet worked out.
The borough of Verdun and the CSMB are still negotiating their land deal. How much will the land be worth if it is zoned institutional? How many years of gym fees and space sharing can the parties exchange or will land somewhere else be exchanged instead? The developer and the borough offered to briefly outline their plans but the deal won’t be done until after the consultation takes place.
No parking spots planned
The new school will have no parking spots available on site, not even for the 35 teachers that will work there. Parents, children and teachers will all have to walk, park on the street, in Park Lafontaine or in the parking lot of local retailers, if a deal can be worked out.
Environment assessment not yet done
An environmental assessment on the land in question isn’t done yet either. Verdun officials said that the three-step process takes only two weeks and isn’t expected to hold any surprises. The parties said they will try to complete the assessment prior to the presentation of comments on July 9.
Next steps in consultation process
Verdun residents have until July 4 to hand in memorandums and register to comment during the second part of the process. For more information, consult the website of the Office de consultation de Montréal at www.ocpm.qc.ca.
Verdun and the CSMB hope that Montreal’s City Council will approve their deal in September.
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