Transparency update

Hudson’s big-hearted ratepayers will be on the hook for the proposed low-cost senior’s residence on Wyman Memorial United’s parking lot. All that’s missing is the size of the financial hit.

This afternoon I drove up there and had a good look around to get a feel for what it would be like to live in an apartment block next to public works. It’s not a bad location, especially if you’re not particularly mobile. You’re close to everything. Apart from the brisk hike up from Main Road and the absence of traffic access via Park. Or underground parking.

The folks in Stephenson Court and neighbours on Hazelwood and Park may have something to say when it comes time for a zoning change. You may recall how vocal they were when the Elliott administration opted to plunk the new firehall up there and pushed the public works yard to the edge of the setback, cutting the green screen in the process.

What concerns me is the vagueness in the costing of this administration’s latest warm and fuzzy pet project.

Projected cost: $3.4-$4.5 million (50% from the Société d’habitation du Québec, 15% from   Hudson taxpayers, 2% from Novoclimat and the remaining third from a guaranteed mortgage. If the estimate is correct (in Quebec, there is good reason to be skeptical of projected construction costs) Hudson’s fantastically philanthropic citizens would be on the hook for anywhere between half a million and $675,000. The other night, councillor Nicole Durand inferred all that would be coming back to the town from other agencies. Citizens would be wise to ask for that in writing from the funding agencies, rather than from those with skin in the game.

Which brings us to operating costs. It’s unclear what services are provided with the basic rents ($556 to $802). A kitchen and dining room will serve three meals daily but we all have different needs as we age, so one can assume nursing, medications and housekeeping will be extras. We’re told the town will assume responsibility for 10 per cent of the operating costs, which will be rebated to us by the Montreal Metropolitan Community. As with construction costs, let’s see all that in writing from the CMM – but not before ratepayers have a hard number representing annual operating costs.

The regional palliative care residence is a handy yardstick. Quebec pays roughly a third of the annual operating costs, approximately $2 million. The rest is up to the generosity of the region’s municipalities, businesses and institutions. Why would the financial model for a subsidized senior’s residence be more generous?

Instead of telling people it’s for a good cause and weaselling the numbers, be honest. Tell them what it’ll cost them and why they should support it. Nobody can forget how Hudson zoned a sizeable parcel of land and paid for a sewer hookup for the construction of a continuing-care senior’s campus. The project was put out of reach due to an unfortunate combination of malfeasance and ineptitude, a recurring theme in this town’s development history. That said, R-55 remains zoned for a senior’s residence. If this administration is that hooked on a senior’s residence next to the public works yard, then rezone R-55 back to single-family residential and hope the tax revenues from the abandoned seniors project will defray the annual costs of this latest pipe dream.

Footnote: As with all zoning and borrowing bylaws, this is subject to referendum. I hope this administration will see fit to post this and all decisions before it’s too late to do anything.

 

 

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24 thoughts on “Transparency update

  1. After reading the Journal today, I too noted that Hudson tax payers would be having to pay the 15% for construction and 10 % operational mentioned. And yes it further mentions that the money will not come directly from Hudson, but from CMM.

    Better get this checked and doubled checked

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  2. I question this project mostly because, providing assistance and care, it will always be too small to be managed and operated at reasonable cost, plus there’s not enough room to ever expand it beyond that too small. Basically, if we can’t entice a commercial operator to invest fully in a project, we will support it for the long term.

    If we wanted to get creative, we could move Public Works to a more appropriate location and demolish the old fire hall and have sufficient room for a much better complex.

    I don’t question the need for some better options for seniors, but Hudson has a history of acquisition and involvement in projects that appear suddenly and then linger in cost and lack sustainable benefit. The acquisition of the Barkhor building, and the old Medi-Centre, the expensive moving and renovation of Rose cottage as some examples. Those would be fine if we had actually invested and fixed what’s wrong with our infrastructure and felt we had some excess money to burn.

    The old Medicentre would be a better location and the town owns it. Seek some developer proposals before committing long term expenses to Wyman. The current R-55 zoned area provides an ideal expandable close to village area and perhaps could attract several different developers if it were parceled out progressively. Sandy Beach and the stalled development down there would be another great option for active and assisted seniors.

    Basically, if a project needing support presents itself, we should first decide if it would have been a project we would have decided on from all the available choices. I won’t be popular for saying it, but Wyman probably has enough setback from Main to allow for a larger seniors building or a good sized row of mixed commercial/residential building along its Main Road frontage, and selling that land to an interested developer would raise needed cash, but at the price of compromising the expansive front yard of Wyman.

    Look at all the options, don’t just jump and the first one that presents itself.

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  3. Instead of leaving us on a all-too brief and confusing description of the proposal at a Council meeting, leaving all of us rather confused as to who might be involved, how this funding is to be implemented, what the real financial numbers are, when the various subsidies and reimbursement might kick in and for how long the tax payers would be on the hook for such a project, would it not make sense to hold a public consultation where the Planning Director, the Land owner, the Operator and CMM’s representative could come explain and answer everyone’s questions?

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  4. Lotta questions on this one. The cynic in me usually thinks , ok ,that’s a nice way of saying we will perpetually be losing money and can you come to our benefit or silent auction this year. We Hudsonites are pretty generous with our time and money in supporting everything from amateur thespians to broken seagulls , from Phoebe Hyde’s memorabilia to musical summer nights to seeing people over to the next life. I’m always afraid of donor fatigue and it seems to never happen here but at some point you have to have gone to the well once too often.

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  5. I mistakenly called it Rose Cottage, what I meant to say was Halcro Cottage. It’s not my least favourite acquisitions and money spending, especially the gardens are both wonderful and a wonderful statement about some of our finest volunteer work.

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  6. Has this project been past TPAC? Are there plans or concept drawings?

    All the press seems to presume this project is automatic go with the full support of Hudson council, and the presumption seems to be that the financing is also all but automatic. While anything is possible in Hudson, it would seem to be premature to presume it will just pass easily over the typical hurdles to development including money.

    I live in the neighborhood and am not immediately adjacent. I don’t have any objection to such a plan in that location, but I do know some of the closer proximity neighbors are likely to object and will probably try to rally support to block it.

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  7. Greetings from Wyman United.
    First and foremost, the 15% and 10% “contributions from the town” are flow-through contributions from the Communauté Métropolitaine de Montréal, as per the formulation of the AccessLogis program.

    That money is sitting there, waiting for use. It comes to Hudson. Or goes somewhere else, to another community.

    This is fact, and the Council’s motion is conditional on the CMM providing these funds.

    We are working with the Groupe Ressource Technique of Valleyfield, a non-profit that helps non-profit groups with housing projects. This group has helped many, many projects succeed over the decades, including low-cost and seniors’ housing. Just as one example, there are two residences in Côteaux that are doing very well under this program.

    At this point we are in VERY early stages. Sometime in the next few months, we will be happy to have an open meeting to explain our project.

    As for the medicentre: Our project does not stop a project there. There is enough need in the community for both, and the need is only going to increase. If some of you wish to form a non-profit and pursue that project it would be commendable, and we can share experiences as we go.

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    1. Reverend Chown, the issue isn’t whether Hudson needs a continuing-care seniors’ residence. The issue is to avoid surprises. As we have tried to explain, Hudson has taken a whole lot of proposals on faith in the past. The results speak for themselves in an list of failed projects – R55 and the continuing care seniors campus, the Kilteevan assisted care complex, the Sandy Beach seniors annex. Then we have the unintended consequences of inadequate planning, everything from tiny parking spaces and access concerns at the looming Medical Centre, traffic problems at the equally looming Hampton Court complex and parking issues everywhere. All of these issues could have been resolved with a modicum of public discussion and that lovely Quebec process called concertation. Hence the concerns of many that your otherwise well-intentioned project could turn into yet another unwelcome surprise because nobody dared ask hard questions. I’m sure you will have no objection to hard questions. Asking hard questions does not presuppose the questioner is opposed to the project but it may help in the process of designing and building a facility with enduring value.

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      1. Jim – we are open to ALL questions. However, your article does not begin with a question, it begins with a statement, or at very least an implication:
        “Hudson’s big-hearted ratepayers will be on the hook for the proposed low-cost senior’s residence on Wyman Memorial United’s parking lot. All that’s missing is the size of the financial hit.” That is not a question, but at least very least implies to residents that they will be paying large amounts from their pockets.

        The Town has been very clear from the beginning that they cannot give any significant financial assistance from Town monies. Actually, they were clearer than that and said “none”, but I would not want to insist on the Town paying absolutely $0, because then someone could say “but it cost us staff time to deal with x, y or z administrative issues, etc.” So I phrase things as I did to avoid potential pettiness.

        However, we are all for questions. So let’s ….. I will be happy to answer a question “Will the residents of Hudson be taking a financial hit? If so, how much? If not, how can we be sure?”

        Now that there are questions, we can answer, including with documentation, but I do not have a way to attach files to this. Therefore, I have posted them on our own website at http://www.wyman-hudson.ca . The bottom line is that Hudson residents will not take a financial hit, and the project will not proceed until all the grant structure is in place. No surprises.

        Also, in this case, the project will be shepherded by a non-profit group of local community-minded people. The papers are being drawn up for this non-profit. This project does not rely on commercial investment, but will be carefully worked on by people of the community who are sensitive to neighbours. For example, we have offered to meet with those in the condos on Stephenson anytime at their request, and they have indicated that they will meet with us sometime in the future. We have already visited many of them and have recorded their concerns. There was much of importance and wisdom in what we heard from our neighbours, and their concerns will be reviewed repeatedly as we proceed.

        Anyone wanting to ask more questions can give a call to the church office. We don’t have all the facts yet – for example, there are no sketches yet, we are far too early for that! – but what we know we will share.

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  8. I might add that not all projects need to start with an automatic zoning change, but could go through a more encompassing planning tool called a PAE (plan d’aménagement d’ensemble) or PPU (plan particulier d’urbanisme) where parameters specific to the area are refined with the public’s consultation to mitigate any site specific issue assuring best fit between the neighbourhood and the infill project.

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    1. Only if those hearings are conducted in good faith. Ask neighbours of VD’s Place de la gare TOD what they think of the PPU that big footed their concerns. There’s a distinction to be made between NIMBYs and people who lose their sunlight for most of the day.

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  9. Fair answer 😉

    Designing new neighbourhoods sprung from flat fields on the side of a highway in anticipation of extensive growth without relying on comparable successful reference is always a challenge. There are some fascinating examples of successful low-income high-density neighbourhood in places such as Malmo, Sweden. The design field in North America is only just learning to look beyond it’s own backyard for alternatives.
    Vaudreuil to me looks like a perfect example of a convenient zoning standards chart converted into a built mish-mash of styles and types without great consideration for eachother.

    Simple to use and free modelling programs are available online which can be used to demonstrate the sun/shade effects on neighbouring buildings. These same tools can demonstrate how a project is to be modulated to provide best fit to its site, assuring for example a respectful fit with neighbouring buildings and existing/natural land profile.

    Montreal long ago adopted planning parameters to control natural essentials such as sun/shading, adding the requirement for wind studies and respect of maintaining protected views depending on the location and size of the project.

    I am not familiar with Vaudreuil’s regulations, but it might be that they do not have such regulatory provisions in place or had simply not thought of verifying the effects of the intensive density on the liveability of these new neighborouds.

    I often wonder what these new high-density developments will look like in less than 50-years. Will they still be trendy when no longer new? Will they remain reasonably affordable for young adults or single professionals commuting by train? Will these fast and furious, car and train-centric neighbourhoods age well and be well-loved? Will more children be seen playing safely in the streets or will it always be an area for people in transition?

    It is my view that Hudson must look at fragmented areas in the village core with great care and greater foresight, greater respect to the adjacent well-established neighbourhoods.

    If one were to look at the overall downtown and surrounding map, is the back corner of the Wyman lot the best location for a publicly subsidized care facility? From the feedback found around town since the last meeting, it seems there might be other alternatives. Perhaps these could be compared where pros and cons given presented back to the public for consideration.

    A question which may help clear up the focus: if one were to look at the larger picture, the larger territory of the Town over a longer projection period as some northern Europeans do, over 50 years for example, is this project the best solution, for Wyman and for Hudson’s residents?

    Luc Noppen, chair of the urban heritage research department at UQUAM is on mandate with our MRC to survey local churches and heritage buildings. At an MRC meeting not long ago, he openly offered his expertise to municipalities, which he extended to property owner’s to help in presenting the challenge at hand over the breadth of the region and help define with owners, leaders and residents what might be the best way to transition these fundamental buildings in our landscape into their new use, their revived place of importance and vibrancy.

    Do look him up… I have suggested more than once that Mr. Noppen be taken up on his offer. We are already paying for his services through the MRC so why not make best use of this perfect opportunity?

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  10. I sincerely wish you the best success with your project. I just ask that you keep an open mind. The process will no doubt bring many solutions. Some might be mixed. Diversity is a great thing. Most kindly. Chloe
    (I would love to attend any Luc Noppen presentation if you get him in town 😉 )

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  11. Wow. Most of you seem to be somewhat on the “cup half empty” side of things.
    Put yourselves forward to your senior years. When the time comes that you cannot manage your current residence and all that implies, do you want to have to move to the West Island for the remainder of your years or stay in Hudson close to family, friends, activities ?

    We have a senior friend, recent widower who is in this situation. He is doing quite well but that is mainly because he is a person who will do well (very cup half full fellow), but still he had to give up a lot to get what he needed.

    The folks planning this project are offering seniors in Hudson and alternative that means they can continue their lives much as they have. It’s hard enough for seniors to have to give up so much when they can no longer manage a house and property etc, but then to have to leave the community they’ve built their life in as well, unpleasant to say the least.

    Frankly whether folk living in Hudson have to pay a bit more in taxes to see this project through, shouldn’t be the issue. What should be the issue is how much this facility is needed. Also if you can afford to live (I can’t and don’t) in Hudson you can probably take a small hit on your taxes, which it doesn’t seem you will have.

    Quite crabbing and try seeing the cup…….

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    1. Heidi, there’s a distinction to be made between crabbing, as you put it, and attending to the details that will make this project a sustainable community asset. Hudson has been led down the garden path too many times for residents to take anything on faith. Let’s see it all in writing so we don’t have to hire yet more lawyers to figure it out.

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  12. If I’m not mistaken, a Beaconsfield church built a seniors and annexed it to the church. There were some who protested at the beginning. I think they used the Project Particulier. They did it because they saw a real need of an option for their seniors that didn’t cost 6,000 a month.

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  13. I think a lot of people missed the main point in the request by the church for a resolution from council. What was being asked for was a proactive commitment from council to pursue a seniors facility on that site. That commitment is absolutely necessary given the amount of money and time required to develop a project and the pour performances in the past in council support for most projects. Far too much undefined detail was brought up at the council meeting and that just muddied the resolution. Remove the issue of public funding and this proposal is private and doesn’t even require all of this comment. Depending on the actual function of this building a zoning change may not even be necessary and potentially a 2 storey building could be possible and integrate well in the built environment. Much more work required before drawing conclusions ….. yes HL glass half full.

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    1. Observation: replace the words ‘seniors facility’ with ‘Ellerbeck project’ or any other recent development proposal and you’ll have my wholehearted support. Hudson goes into sanctimony overdrive for projects of the right pedigree and the results speak for themselves — a palliative care residence with insufficient parking, a medical centre with access problems we were well warned about and the granddaddy of them all, R55, the result of blind faith. My point is that EVERY proposal should have to meet set standards and norms. You know just how poorly Hudson’s double standards have served this town over the years.

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