By Robert Frank
James Bonnell wants to capitalize on Beaconsfield’s shoreline, if he’s elected mayor in November.
“Anything to do with the water, I’ve always had a passion,” the Nova Scotia native, who has resided here for the last eight years, told The Suburban in an interview. “Beaconsfield is a waterfront community but we’re not really promoting it in the way that we could.”
“A big issue is how the Lord Reading Yacht Club (LRYC) can be included with [adjacent] Centennial Park, which has outhouses where other communities have flush toilets,” Bonnell said. “The whole park needs to be revamped. Many people using it are not even residents. I would like to see the integration of some services for residents.”
“LRYC is like a park but a park and basically pays no tax,” he explained. “It’s a private club run under a management contract [with the city] which is up [for renewal] in 2018.”
“Seventy-five percent of the people using the club now are definitely not from Beaconsfield,” he added. “I have a boat there, but we need to do more for the citizens of Beaconsfield.”
“It would be nice if individuals from Beaconsfield could use that club,” he said. “Beaconsfield residents should come first.”
Bonnell advocated connecting an existing bike trail along Elm with the Lac St. Louis shore to form a continuous loop for bikers and hikers.
He also acknowledged Beaconsfield needs to improve its financial position. “Just building condos will help to increase tax revenue, but not necessarily the tax base in terms of what it means in people’s pockets,” he said.
Instead, Bonnell wants to boost Beaconsfield business.
“All [Beaconsfield’s office buildings] are empty and run down,” he contended. “I want to make an intellectual hub for Beaconsfield lawyers, accountants, engineers and architects on the land where the Esso station used to be southeast of Highway 20.”
“I also want to rebrand Beaurepaire village to make it more like a distinctive waterfront community,” Bonnell continued. “We have to make sure that you have access to cycle and walking paths and also have a second path into Centennial Park down to the water.”
“I’m sensitive to the ecological side of things,” emphasized the McGill biology graduate who went on to complete an MBA degree at Concordia as well as two years of study toward an online doctorate via Minnesota’s Walden University.
“Most of my supporters are from the business community,” he added.
Bonnell is also at odds with the city’s plans for Angell Woods.
“Beaconsfield is not for sale,” he insisted. “I very much disagree when [Association for the Preservation of Angell Woods president] Stephen Lloyd turned around and said that the city of Montreal can buy it.”
Bonnell instead wants Beaconsfield to buy the green space, valued at $12 million, for $1, “as well as compensate York Development and SEDA, which together own 55 percent of Angell Woods, for a reasonable amount.”
One of the big issues that we have right now is the [lack of a] sense of who we are in Beaconsfield,” he concluded. “We have six districts that behave as six distinct communities that don’t necessarily have the interests of Beaconsfield at heart.”
“Perhaps renaming those districts with something to do with their history would be a better way to manage that.”
Bonnell believes that Beaconsfielders have become inured to their hefty tax bills to the point of fatalism, and that he can make a difference.
“At the last city council meeting, 30-40 people showed up, compared to 750 who attended a concert at Centennial Park,” he observed. “People seem more interested in music than politics.”
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