PMAD basics

Seems there’s confusion over the Montreal Metropolitan Community’s master development plan, better known by its French acronym. I was the only journalist from our region at the public hearings on the West Island and at the plenary in St. Constant, where our MRC delegation explained why Vaudreuil-Soulanges needed changes to the draft PMAD. We didn’t get them, but the passage of time and the provincial government’s election vows and austerity measures have further muddied the waters. All this to say there’s plenty of slack. This is far from being a strait jacket.
PMAD basics:
One size fits all, so there’s one PMAD for 82 MMC municipalities. Out here, half of the Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC municipalities are in the MMC because of a formula which determines how many of their residents work and shop on the island. Once in, there’s no way out. Blustering and threatening to sue will accomplish nothing because the PMAD is fixated on the following precepts:
Urban sprawl costs money.
Bigger isn’t better because it means more roads to maintain, more services to instal and upgrade, etc.
Montreal Island is choking to death in its own traffic, most of it from commuters who refuse to use public transit because they live too far out and the services aren’t as fast and reliable as driving oneself or carpooling, even when we factor in the average 2.5 hours a day commuting.
Farmland, greenspace protection and doubling down on densities in already populated areas are the three main goals.
There’s been considerable flap about Transport-Oriented Development (TOD), as if the town of Hudson abandoned its one train a day it would somehow be exempted. That’s not how the PMAD works. If you’re served by any form of public transit, such as the CIT shuttlebuses, even if your burg is within a 15-minute commute of a railway station or express bus terminus, chances are it will be characterized as a potential TOD. For example, St. Lazare and Les Cedres don’t have train service to their territories but both are within the MMC and both urban cores are considered TODable.
Having followed the PMAD since its inception (Hudson, like most VS MRC municipalities, can kick itself for not having gotten involved in the process early enough) I think we have to alter our way of thinking.
Being labelled as a TOD doesn’t force a town to develop, but it does require subsequent development to adhere to unreasonably high densities. This is why it’s best that Hudson plans for a few high-density projects in the sewered part of town. Half a dozen multi-unit residential projects on Main, Cameron and Lakeview would go a long way to satisfying the PMAD’s densification goal without substantially altering the unique character of the Quartier francais.
Ellerbeck, R-55 and the zoning already approved for Sandy Beach would add the number of doors required to defray the cost of the sewer/water infrastructure currently being downloaded on a fraction of the town’s ratepayers. The current tax burden split is neither smart nor equitable.
Proper planning is the key. Rather than blowing dough on pie-in-the-sky wish lists, municipalities have to be frugal, careful stewards of the public purse. Forget the skateboard parks and the vanity publicity. Concentrate on lasting, sustainable investments in commercialization and public convenience, such as a dedicated, covered outdoor market and more, better-planned public parking. What about that secure pedestrian path alongside Main and Cote St. Charles, before somebody is killed or seriously hurt? Get the planning right and everything else will follow naturally. Above all, learn to live with the PMAD by seeing at as an opportunity to be seized upon.

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14 thoughts on “PMAD basics

  1. I’ve always loved the idea of a public covered market place. When I attended a conference of the Réseau Québecois des villes et villages en santé in Massueville, the residents had erected a huge “halle” or outdoor market. It was covered but open on all sides. If you google Massueville and their monthly bulletin there is a photo.
    They used this for all town events, a place for people to congregate. I remember that trip well because I got hopelessly lost in garland (no CPS at the time) but here was this little village of about 1000 people and this was obviously their pride and joy. They had decided to host the annual conference to show it off. When I came back, I suggested it to the mayor and council. The location I had in mind was the empty lot east of the funeral home and west of Barn Owls. If the owner did not want to sell, perhaps he would give the town a 99 year lease? Anyway, there was no money for such frivolities, of course, there was no money….

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  2. One of the great problems in developing high density in Hudson’s downtown core is our road width which is quite narrow.

    Going 3 stories or even 4 stories high to get dense enough without a a significant front setback will create looming facades and canyon like streets. Stand on the sidewalk in front of Hampton Court and imagine a similar building with similar setback across the street. We should do our best perhaps to have green space and parks across from higher density areas to maintain a somewhat open feel.

    Eliminating the TOD designation in Hudson after too many years of ignoring PMAD will be challenging, yet our critical mass dictates that we’ll always be too small to handle a full schedule of buses and trains in today’s world.

    An option could be to negotiate and move the TOD area that’s been designated. From my perspective, Brian Grubert has made a very strong case in another thread for the Montee Manson area as a more ideal TOD area. Frankly, I barely registered that that area was part of Hudson until I looked at Google Maps.

    A train connection and bus terminus there would work well for St. Lazare and the detached sections of Vaudreuil Dorion and allow a better planned more dense development that could include future retail and commercial rental spaces close to the highway. End the train there and then turn the existing railbed into a linear park right into downtown Old Hudson Village.

    Most of all, we need to start having the discussion. In the TPAC agenda and minutes from June 2015 to February 2015 there was only one discussion of TOD and is was minuted only that a “casual discussion” occurred.

    Time to start taking control of the process we’ve been ignoring because PMAD has BIG FEET and BIG CONSEQUENCES.

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    1. The PMAD doesn’t trump local zoning. Hudson’s existing three-storey height limit or SPAIP neighbourhood architectural guidelines. Hudson’s best option would be to edict a PPU (essentially a planning overview to ensure coherence and consistency in dealing with parking, traffic, setbacks, pedestrian views, sunlight rights and sidewalk retail access. Hudson has allowed the mighty automobile to dictate how the downtown core should look, with the lamentable results we see. The Corker administration presented a series of proposals for streetview improvement of the commercial core which would have cost a lot less if they had been carried out at the same time as the water/sewer works. This is the rationale for a PPU. Fear of change is not a valid reason to do nothing.

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    2. As for the rail line, the AMT bought the right of way between VD and The Ontario border. The new transit agency, created by the merger of the STM, AMT and regional bus authorities will make it feasible for light rail transit systems on less-used lines such as the Rigaud-Hudson-Vaudreuil spur to feed the existing AMT network. Faced with the AMT’s refusal to lift the rails and sleepers on the line, Hudson would have to go to court and be prepared to fight all the way to Federal Court. Far better to think past the next election to the next generation, to when the private automobile is there to travel the first or last mile. Again, fear of change is not a valid reason for doing nothing.

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    3. Lack of major setbacks is not a big problem if the sidewalks are properly scaled(larger than what hudson has now..) 3 or 4 story developments that hug the street have the effect of slowing down vehicle traffic. A visual of this: https://mindshapedbox.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/2513912670_8925b8df7e_z.jpg
      or even better: https://c2.staticflickr.com/4/3465/3838964684_572e82b6c5_b.jpg
      The boys at the fire hall might have something to say about that last example-but I think it shows the possibilities.

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      1. In an ideal world, or a new build this is great. We have mostly single sidewalks where we have them at all, and we have narrow right of ways, so we need bigger setbacks or we’ll cramp up.

        I’d love to have seen downtown Hudson as two opposing one way streets and a loop with cross streets, but it’s fully developed and we’re very limited. If you ever get to Palm Beach area of Florida visit Stuart, it’s a great example and thriving historic village.

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      2. So many little, and not so little towns, in the US are pedestrian friendly and a lot have 3 or 4 story centennial buildings close to sidewalks. There were opportunities in the past in Hudson to beautify and redo the coeur du village (burying the hydro wires comes to mind) but it was always a question of not wanting to spend the money. Unfortunately, the passing the buck to the next generation has left us with what we have today, a downtown core which needs a facelift. At one point we have to address that issue, start with a plan and work that plan, even if you have to do it over several years. There are nice plans at town hall which were done several years ago. Let’s take them out of mothballs.

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    4. Wouldn’t it be nice if our Urban Planning department could work on finding a way to have light industry somewhere in Hudson? Think of the tax revenue. Varennes went this way a few years ago and now have a thriving industrial park. i know it’s 20,000 inhabitants but could it be done here? I know Tom Birch had broached the subject many times in the past but I guess land is all green. A possible location, either near Montee Manson or 201 and hardwood. Any thoughts on that?

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      1. Over to Brian Grubert on this one. He’s got some great insight and ideas, just don’t let him name streets or we’ll have the Helter Skelter Industrial Park.

        I think Brian’s ideas make a perfect diversionary TOD zone to replace and improve upon the downtown core.

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      2. Hi Diane , I do think if we were to be saddled w/a TOD , it would make a lot of sense off Montee Manson and the railroad. Good access from all compass points serving at least 2 municipalities : Hudson , St.Lazare : no disturbance to existing neighborhoods and space to grow a whole new denser transport oriented community with enough room for light industrial and commercial mixed in with perhaps some micro-farming and greenspace. Problem : cptaq and Guy Pilon in VD. Not insurmountable as the planners at the CMM level originally proposed a TOD there . It’s a mix of forest,field and stream in a 100 acre+/- parcel. Planners would lick their lips at this initiative.

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  3. I feel like a broken record shouting into a strong wind here . I’ve said this so often and got no response that I feel I’m in some sort of twilight zone. Peter pointed out how immense the presence of the new Hampton Court apartments are. Has nobody asked themselves why it is so much bigger than the old bldg.? It is because the zoning there ( c-27) is zoned for 125 multi-family units / hectare. Crikey, the PMAD is asking for 40 units/hectare in TODs. Is anyone listening?? C-27 , R-62 , R-61 , R-60, R-59 are in our present zoning at 125 UNITS/HECTARE!!! The only thing standing between us and density apocalypse is the height restriction. Josee Pascal was allowed to put 28 condos on her Habib site . She chose not to – thank God. These zones I have listed basically cover from the Legion to the Hampton court from Main to the tracks, up Cameron on both sides to St.Jean , all the south side of Main rd. from Elm to St.Thomas school. With a zoning change in bldg. height we’re basically going to be Manhattan. You know how many people attended the public mtg. for the bldg. change ht. last summer – 10 people. It’s not a tough one to change . nobody can visualize the consequences. This zoning has been in our master plan since 2009. The Corker regime had no idea what they were signing into law . On registration day – 1 signature against – mine. I still can’t believe our urban planning dept. put this zoning forth . Harder to believe is we accepted it. And don’t tell me it’s irrelevant because they are all built sites. How long do you think it will take to knock down, say the optometrist bldg. if a developer knows he can put a 26 unit condo there. At this rate the PMAD densities are the voice of reason.

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    1. Hey Brian, if it counts, I heard you loud and clear the first time …

      I am glad you did the math. Unfortunate this type of logical analysis is rarely prepared or presented to the public making it hard to place value or ask for improvement on solutions presented as ”fait accompli”.

      How does one ask for change in the local Planning Paradigm before the next massive planning by-law changes?

      All we know is there seems to be a status quo at the moment at the Planning level making even promoters and developers such as Ellerbeck and Pascoe unhappy enough to expose their discontentment publically, one directly to Council at a recent Town meeting and the second by posting a notice on the front door of the old Habib’s store reading : ”Our apologies to all those waiting for these condos to begin. We are being delayed by the Town of Hudson Council. Please be patient. The wait will be worth it”

      Here is a a term I learned recently from Naomi Klein’s documentary ”This Changes Everything”:

      Overburden (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overburden)
      In mining, overburden (also called waste or spoil) is the material that lies above an area that lends itself to economical exploitation, such as the rock, soil, and ecosystem that lies above a coal seam or ore body.

      When will we learn not to deface our landscape (built and natural) for the plain and self-interested quest of greater financial wealth? I have said it before: PMAD was not invented for a few developers to get rich, but rather to prepare for the anticipated growth in population of an influx of people relatively new to the area. Not sure how Sandy Beach, Como Gardens and the like truly fit the intent of the PMAD.

      In her documentary, Naomi Klein shows us the great damage caused to a millennial landscape and to the community by the systematic scraping of the top crust of the earth, removing centennial trees, underbrush, indigenous flora and top soil to get to the earth’s underbelly in order to reap Nature’s valuable resources for rapid short-term profit. This is done by skilled labourers driving large machinery, so large and high above ground they are detached from the richness of the natural layers they are destroying. This separation between mind and place is critical for people to continue believing in the value and end goal of what they are doing, needless of what is left behind which may take generations to restore once the bulldozers are gone and the extraction is completed.

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  4. Thanks for clearing this up Brian, I had no idea about this sky high density, only limited by building height. I suspect that Hampton Court was a surprise because the old building was set back further or at least it feels that way.

    We seem to have had a propensity for copying others when writing bylaws, sometimes without reason or understanding. I know Westmount was cited a a reference in some issues, like leash laws.

    125/ha in Westmount might make sense, never in Hudson.

    Maybe we need a Suburban planning department instead, the Urban one seems to be making us dense.

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