Beaconsfield moves on Angell Woods

Woonerf comes to West Island

By Robert Frank

Beaconsfield plans to import a sustainable development strategy from the Netherlands to solve the intractable problem of what to do with the huge tract of mostly undeveloped forest between Highways 20 and 40, west of Woodland.

“Woonerf is the type of development that we are after,” District 6 councilor Rhonda Massad told The Suburban in an interview. “Beaconsfield fits into a transit-oriented development and an ecological territory.”

With little land to build on, the Dutch have mastered the art of creating livable developments on a small footprint close to mass transit, she explained. Woonerf, the Dutch term for ‘residential neighbourhood’ literally means ‘living yard’.

A standing-room only crowd filled Beaconsfield’s council chamber, August 19, for the first of what will be several votes to decide Angell Woods’ fate.

“Three members of city council, myself, Mayor David Pollock, and councilor Wade Staddon are former Association for the Protection of Angell Woods members,” Massad reminded. “The next council [after the Nov. 3 municipal election] might or might not be as green.”

The city council voted in favour of permitting the development of eight seniors’ residences of eight units each.

Meantime, negotiations remain ongoing with the Montreal agglomeration council to use conservancy money to buy the remaining land, valued at $12 million, to preserve and maintain it as a park.

Meanwhile, the traffic-restricted Woonerf development would prioritize pedestrians and commuting over car traffic.

“It’s not car-friendly,” Massad declared. “Houses are close together and streets are not as wide as other local streets. It promotes community.”

“I live right up against this whole thing,” she continued. “I can’t accept one more car accident. I’ve witnessed two, including one last night when a 15-year-old girl not wearing a helmet was thrown off her bike. It was very traumatizing. I’m very traffic-safety oriented for this project.”

Massad reassured citizens who voiced concern that the condo development might tower over its low-rise neighbours.

“I’m a two-storey girl,” she retorted. “Beaconsfield citizens have told me that they’re not prepared to support development taller than two stories, and I’ve listened.”

“Once land is gone you don’t get it back,” said Mayor Pollock, after voting together with Massad against one of the proposals tabled on Monday night. “It will be more dense and buffer land is better for the ecosystem.”

“I don’t see this as being an integral part of Angell Woods,” countered councilor Roy Baird, who voted in favour, “and I want to respect property rights.”

The development adjacent to the commuter train station will be, at most, one or one-and-a-half blocks deep, said Massad.

“From Elm to touching the train will be 300 metres,” she insisted. “We believe in conservation. It’s an extremely green, sustainable development that will permit us to preserve at least 80 per cent of Angell Woods.”

During question period, conservation activists implored the city not to move forward without further study and debate.

“When the interim control bylaw was put in place three years ago it was, by its very nature, interim,” Mayor Pollock responded. “That does need to be changed to permanent zoning.”

Now that the notices of motion have passed, the city will hold an open house, Sept. 9, and public consultations, Sept. 23 and 24.

The final vote on Angell Woods is slated for the last city council meeting before the Nov. 3 election, in October.

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