By Tracey Arial
Residents questioned decisions made about the Nun’s Island golf course, a beach in Desmarchais Crawford and security during the May 5 borough meeting in Verdun, but Mayor Jean-François Parenteau didn’t back down.
Parenteau began the meeting with many congratulations for Verdun residents who succeed. Four players from Verdun were selected to play in the World soccer tournament for students. Verdun’s blue collar workers who won a hockey tournament and donated funds collected to the Dr. Julien foundation.
He also highlighted the 28-year career of journalist Pierre Lussier, who will retire after covering the May meeting.
Announcements were also made about revised garbage pickups, a former resident William John Warmack who turned 97 years old, and the June 6 relay fundraiser by the Dawson Centre.
Sterling Downey congratulated Bill Buchanan on his 100th anniversary.
Everyone clapped when Parenteau announced his success at not smoking for 30 days.
Then the tough questions began.
Fabiola Renaud asked the first of several questions about plans to build a beach on the old snow dump across from the Douglas Institute for Montreal’s 375th birthday.
“I’m from the Iles de la Madeleine,” she said. “At my home, there was once a storm that removed 75 feet of sand. How will the borough protect the beach sand from being removed by the St. Lawrence River’s strong current, especially during storms? Not only will taxpayers have to pay to construct this beach, but we’ll have to pay to reconstruct it over and over again. You did a consultation last spring, and I participated in that consultation. You simply asked ‘who wants a beach. Who would say no to that? You didn’t ask ‘who wants to pay for a beach?’ or ‘where should we put a beach?’ Now you announce that the beach will go in the location of the former snow dump instead of next to the arena, where the councillors I voted for said they would put it. Will you agree to hold a consultation about the location of this beach?”
“The sand will not touch the water so the current won’t take it anywhere,” said Parenteau. “As far as a consultation, there’s a system of democracy and it’s an election every four years.”
Later in the meeting, another citizen got up to present a petition of 99 names against the beach. Parenteau looked shocked when most people in the room clapped and several people asked to add their names before the petition was turned in.
The borough has since announced that it will hold an information discussion for citizens about the location of the beach. A date for that session has not yet been set.
Udayan San asked why the mayor wouldn’t meet with residents living on Gordon Street who are facing construction in their neighbourhood for the summer. One of Verdun’s six most dangerous intersections falls on that street and residents want to make sure that the borough takes advantage of the current construction project to make needed renovations to improve local security.
“I don’t want to do everything in community,” said Parenteau. “We have the right to decide.”
The most contentious question was asked by Pierre Émond, the owner of the Nun’s Island Golf Club.
“Do you dare to take away my golf course?” said Émond. “It has taken $18 million and seven years of my life to turn a one-time landfill into Quebec’s only ecological golf course. Isn’t there something we can do to resolve our dispute?”
“Too little, too late,” said Parenteau, whose council approved a motion to enable borough employees to force the developer to take all necessary steps to conform to the terms of their agreement including cancelling the 40-year lease that began in 2007.
The golf course and borough are disputing whose responsibility it is to set up a pump to regulate the oxygen in lac des Battures where fish have been dying recently. They also disagree about who should construct a chalet. This isn’t the first dispute between the parties either. The borough took similar actions on August 5, 2011, after Émond closed the golf course early in the season.
During the 20-minute debate, Parenteau mentioned that Émond had threatened to destroy his political career in a private telephone call. Émond said that he was providing advice, not making threats.
After the questions, the council decided to demolish six buildings at 5025 Bannantyne, 3952 to 3970 Newmarch and 441-443 Willibrord and build six new residential buildings on the same properties.
The next three council meetings will take place out of doors in various parks throughout the borough. The June 2 meeting will take place in Arthur-Therrien Park. The July 7 meeting will take place in the Elgar Community Centre. The September 1 meeting will take place at the municipal greenhouse. All three meetings will begin at 7 p.m.