Suburbs balk at $3.6 million playground

Another $1.4 million to enlarge Bois de Liesse

By Robert Frank

Montreal’s demerged cities have objected to paying $3,330 per sq. metre to buy a 1,081 sq. metre parking lot wedged between St. Mathieu and St. Marc in Ville Marie borough to turn it into a local play space.

“That’s almost three times the municipal evaluation of the property,” Association of Suburban Mayors executive director Bruce St. Louis told The Suburban. “It’s a parking lot, so it’s a certainty that the soil beneath it has been contaminated by the petroleum-based asphalt.”

“The mayors are challenging why suburban cities are being asked to pay for just under 20% of the cost of this $3.6 million acquisition downtown,” he said in an interview. “That’s a whack of money.”

“Clearly it’s to serve the needs of the people dwelling there,” St. Louis asserted. “We’re not challenging the principle of developing land for green space. We are challenging why suburban cities should pay for what will be a local park.”

When Quebec undid Montreal’s failed shotgun marriage with its suburbs, it formed the Montreal Agglomeration Council to pay for common expenses, including for capital investment and maintenance downtown, where many suburbanites spend their workdays.

The agglo proceeded to define a huge swath of Montreal as the city’s downtown—North America’s largest. That forces the suburbs to pay for 19 per cent of the cost of an area that spans Atwater to Pie IX, and from the waterfront to Sherbrooke, with some bits ranging far north into Côte des Neiges district.

As reported in The Suburban, a month ago, the demerged cities also objected after the agglo voted to pay $4.2 million—four times the evaluation—to turn a parking lot next to Montreal city hall into green space.

St. Laurent gets more parkland

St. Louis added that the suburban mayors support another acquisition approved last week.

During its Nov. 27 meeting, the agglo council voted to spend $1.4 million to buy two lots of land totaling 25,086 sq. metres, to add to the borough’s Bois de Liesse nature park, at prices of $21 and $36.80 per sq. metre respectively.

Although the suburbs endorsed the acquisition, they remain concerned by the risk that the property might contain toxic substances.

“They have not carried out any soil testing on it to verify that there is no contamination,” St. Louis said. “It can be very expensive to contaminate.”

He explained that since the land is privately owned, Montreal cannot simply go on-site to take soil samples.

“Once we have gone through the expropriation process, we can do so,” St. Louis added. “If we find it to be contaminated, then have a right to go back and adjust the sale price that we had agreed on to be compensated for any decontamination costs.”
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