Neighbours unhappy about de l’Église project

By Tracey Arial

Verdun’s urban planning committee (CCU) has approved the latest project for the de l’Eglise lot south of Edna where the Hollywood Café used to be, but neighbours aren’t happy.

“The neighbours are not against building something there, but this project looks horrible,” says Michel Laberge, who lives in a circa-1942 home next to the lot. “There are nine parking spots in the back: seven for the 13 condo owners and two for the commercial property. People are already driving around and around the street trying to park. On the top of the building, there are going to be 21 motors. That will be really noisy.”

There have been at least six projects proposed for the lot, but this is the first time neighbours have been consulted. Laberge says that any of the earlier ones would have been better than this one.

He’s not the only person who thinks so. Sixteen other neighbours participated in the June 25 consultation and those who spoke condemned the latest project. In addition to the potential noise and parking difficulties, they worry that the height and size of the new building will block their sun and interfere with their privacy.

Some were frustrated that the borough consultation process doesn’t give them any say over the project conception. Afterwards, they all had questions about how the register process works.

Lot owner Chrystos Karantounis, the owner of Zappy’s Pizza, showed me the first four versions of his plans for the lot. The first project was proposed on June 23, 2011, and includes eight condominiums, six parking spots and an 80-child daycare.

A month later, there were new windows on the side wall of the commercial space and the addition of a land-coverage figure (49.5 percent). In September that year, the old Hollywood Café was demolished and new plans were sent to the city. By January 2012, the plans were scaled back to include only six condos and five parking spots.

“I argued with that curly-haired guy they got rid of,” said Karantounis. “He made me change so many things, that’s why I lose so much money. I’m tired. I give up.”

In the end, the entire plan was scrapped because Karantounis couldn’t get a daycare permit. “Two times I try to create a daycare, but I didn’t get the permit because my name’s not Tremblay.”

Nothing happened for a few months, until Karantounis was contacted by Claude Lachance and Nathan Bedock from GCA Créateurs immobiliers. In addition to being developers, Lachance and Bedock are members of the Fondation du développement local de Verdun.

Karantounis paid for the old Hollywood Café structure to be demolished in May 2012. The project damaged Laberge’s roof and left spaces in his adjoining wall. Karantounis fixed the roof and insulated the outside wall and then handed the project over to Lachance and Bedock. They’ve handled all submissions to the city about the project in the last year.

“When everything is done, I will sell it to the developer,” said Karantounis. “They do the job, but I don’t want to get involved with the construction. I’m in the restaurant business. What do I know about construction?”

Lachance and Bedock plan a project with a much larger footprint than Karantounis’ plans, but they had hoped it would be even larger.

Last October, they made conditional deals to buy out Laberge and his next door neighbour to develop the entire corner. Both owners accepted, but Verdun’s CCU rejected the plan. The current project has been accepted by the CCU. It contains 13 condo units plus a commercial space that occupies 68.89 percent of the property.

Neighbours who object can petition for a referendum in mid-August. If 12 people from each of the six zones sign, a register for a referendum will take place early in September.

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