By Robert Frank
In the lead-up to Monday’s open house on the future of Beaconsfield’s biggest green space, citizens took to the internet to express their views.
In a flurry of widely distributed electronic mail exchanges, residents called into question the potential construction of some 400 new residents near the Woodland commuter train station.
“I am afraid that these information sessions, Sept. 9 and 24 will become a circus again, unless the city council can take the lead,” fretted concerned citizen Gilles Perron.
Beaconsfield Citizens Association president Greg Stienstra weighed in, suggesting that the city deliberately announced its special planning program (SPP) for Angell Woods during “the low-key summer vacation” period as an “inappropriate” way to minimize public scrutiny.
Bills pile up
Another concerned citizen, Tom Paterson, reminded Stienstra that Beaconsfield’s legal fees are continuing to mount and that no development will take place until the city’s solves the bottleneck at Woodland avenue—currently only traffic outlet from the neighbourhood north of Highway 20.
“The most important thing is [that the SPP] protects the taxpayer,” Paterson wrote, “and I pay a lot of taxes.”
The district’s city councilor Rhonda Massad, who is running for mayor in November, told The Suburban than the Beaconsfield can’t afford any more delay in addressing what was always meant to be a temporary development freeze.
“The [Angell Woods] property owners got a tax holiday when the interim control bylaw was implemented,” she explained. “We’ve already lost $250,000 in revenue because, until we lift the ban, they’re legally exempt from paying [property] tax.”
In addition to that, we’ve already spent $50,000-$80,000 in legal fees,” she added. “This is not city owned [land], it’s privately owned [land]. Property owners’ have rights, and we don’t respect them, the city will end up [facing them] in court.”
Massad reminded that Beaconsfield formed an advisory committee two years ago, which brought outgoing Mayor David Pollock together with concerned citizens, city councilors, landowners and the Association for the Protection of Angell woods.
“Everyone was consulted,” she asserted, “ and the SPP is what the citizens asked for.”
They were comfortable with the 20:80 split [between development and conservation], and the plan that council advances was even more restrictive and greener.”
Develop or die
Georges Bourelle, another mayoral hopeful who is one of Massad’s opponents in the coming election, affirmed that “as far as I am concerned, a two-storey residential condo development such as has been proposed, falls within my vision of acceptable densification for Beaconsfield.”
The retired Beaconsfield businessman acknowledged that “an increasing number of [the city’s nearly 20,000 residents] are seniors on fixed income [who] cannot afford large tax increases.”
“As a businessman, I know that you understand the importance of growing revenue in order to keep taxation fairly stable, to maintain our infrastructure and sustain the quality of life that our community enjoys,” he wrote in reply to Paterson. “Thinking that we can accomplish this without any growth is simply putting our head in the sands and avoiding the issue.”
Both Bourelle and Massad recognized that opening another traffic outlet for the neighbourhood along Elm would require the consent of the adjacent city of Baie d’Urfé.
In the meantime, “there will be no development in Angell Woods until the traffic congestion at the Woodland intersection is resolved,” Massad insisted.
She added that the new protocol is needed to permit Beaconsfield to move forward with negotiations to have the Montreal urban agglomeration buy the forest and transform it into a regional park.
According to a municipal document, the SPP will let the city move forward with a vast eco-project for the Rivière à l’Orme forest.
“The agglomeration council intends to create a huge ecological and recreational corridor connecting Angell Woods, the Bois de la Roche agricultural park and the Cap St. Jacques regional park,” the SPP document stated.
It also observed that the city is required to densify development within a 500-metre radius of commuter train stations, in order to foster public transportation.
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