Countdown

With less than a year before the next municipal election, Hudson’s Prévost administration is proceeding with its densification agenda. Good, I say. More residents in the urban core would be welcome news for overburdened taxpayers and local businesses.

But what, if any, of that agenda will be shared with Hudson residents?

Lack of transparency is a chronic disease with the current administration. This council tries to put a positive spin on everything, including spiralling administrative costs and debt of close to $30 million. Everything at town hall is on a need-to-know basis – and it seems to be the unwritten rule that taxpayers have no need to know.

Urban planning director Natalie Lavoie, back from a 10-day suspension for unspecified reasons, told me last week the welcome mat is out for any downtown redevelopment plan. Lavoie’s new-found zeal for moving the development dial suggests she’s ready to get behind anything this council decides. If past victims of town hall’s deadly revolving door are indicative, Lavoie is a marked woman.

Whatever, council will need a compliant urban planning director. I hear Hudson’s downtown core is on the brink of radical change, with two or more multi-unit residential developments rumoured.

One, at the corner of Cameron and Lakeview, looks to be Hudson’s long-promised continuing care seniors’ residence. The town allowed demolition of the former Medi-Centre (98 Cameron) and adjacent cottage at 100 (corner Lakeview) even though no redevelopment proposal for the site has been filed.

Sources tell me the owner of both lots, 971-2577 Canada Inc., intends to submit plans for a three-storey residential project by the spring. At least two of the directors were involved in the new medical complex as well as in the R-55 seniors’ campus disaster.

Technically, the municipality has already lost money on the deal. It bought the former medical centre in 2012 for $450,000 ($200,000 plus a $250,000 tax receipt) and sold it earlier this year for $422,000.

Hudson desperately needs an assisted-care facility so that failing seniors can continue to live here. But this close to the centre of town, next to Cunningham’s? What about parking? Privacy? Greenspace? These were big issues when the Corker administration created R-55 on a dozen hectares at the corner of Côte St. Charles and Hillside.

Rumours persist that Hudson’s only grocery store will shut and move to the northwest corner of Côte Road and the 40. Once that happens, the town will be asked to approve construction of a multi-unit commercial/residential complex.

In the west end, the town has reversed its earlier rejection of Hudson Valleys developer Daniel Rodrigue’s request for a zoning change at the south end of Mayfair permitting him to convert 12 single family dwelling lots into a maximum of 24 semi-detached dwelling lots. The zoning change is subject to a referendum. I hope sector residents will grasp the obvious benefits of entry-level housing at the entrance to some of the town’s most valuable real estate.

In the east end, Auberge Willow Place and five adjacent cadastral units are for sale as a block. Asking price: $3.3M. This includes the Willow, The Anchorage and a residence to the west, plus three parking lots. (The Willow itself is in a residential zone and retains the acquired right to operate for nine months before reverting to residential. The Anchorage is in a commercial zone.) Rezoning to multi-family residential is ruled out.

The best proposal I’ve heard to date comes from Peter Ratcliffe:

“Willow Place should be, in my humble opinion the new Hudson Town Hall. Much cheaper to buy it as a package, sell the lots and buildings we don’t need, use the upstairs rooms for private offices, dining room for common offices, add some water access for a public park, and adapt this relatively new but historic building to municipal offices with lots of parking. Find someone to rent and run the pub and it would make Town council nights more sociable after the meetings. $3.3 mil for a developer won’t fly with any competent developer who can find better profit potential in vacant land without zoning challenges for less money.”

Smart, I say. That’s the kind of thinking this administration needs to entertain as it embarks on the last year of its mandate.

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4 thoughts on “Countdown

  1. R-55 Seniors project’s failure was a sad if predictable result where the only one to profit was the developer who over-mortgaged the land and never built. The mortgage holder is in for a pile more than the land was originally bought for and this makes and such project nearly impossible. The sanitary sewers were extended to service this project, adding cost to that install now being carried by the sewered rate-payers.

    When we re-zone for significant change and make investments to allow it, shouldn’t we make such re-zoning conditional on a time limit?

    I think the R-55 Zoning is also too restrictive to interest developers. The Corker administration made it a very tight set of restrictions.

    So we’re in a stand-off where unless we make the zoning more flexible the mortgagor cannot find a buyer to re-coup their money and Hudson will have the largest most expensive vacant lot in the village generating absolutely no value for the town.

    During this period, Hudson needs growth and will accept to build much less perfect senior’s housing piecemeal and in unfortunate locations.

    Hudson has not fully developed a PMAD compliant densification plan, yet we rush ahead to densify without such a plan. Plan first, then build. That we don’t have a PMAD plan in place is a failure of past and present administrations to ensure that the planning department consults with our public and adheres to the rules of the MRC. We keep asking the MRC for extensions, it’s time to meet a deadline before we get a helter-skelter dense village that lacks livability, charm and common sense.

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  2. Peter, you’re spot on. This council has made much of its strategic plan but has done nothing to present residents with a cohesive overview of how it proposes to guide development. Surely a master development plan harmonized with the MRC and MMC’s visions would be a more practical approach. The town’s strategic plan is a wish list at best.
    I don’t have much faith in the citizen advisory committees this administration has created. I fear this is a cynical manoeuvre to lull would-be critics into thinking they’re part of the process. Your suggestion of an arm’s-length citizens’ committee is an idea whose time has come.

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  3. I think green space and parking in the village center should have been more coherently addressed before densification is discussed. Further, what will densification look like. Our planning dept. must combine the vision of our council with the ” suggestions” of the PMAD . So far it seems very ad hoc. Mr. Ellerbeck comes with his suburban sprawl , Mr. Rodrigue with his after the fact duplex idea, or Mr. Muhlegg with his ? I guess we’ll find out at Mondays council mtg. We have the Habib condo vehicular access looking like a down ramp to the Ville Marie tunnel and a bunch of other vital empty lots which our urban planners are stating is a “step right up ! ” with whatever ideas you might have. No scenario too crazy. This is not the way it should work .

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    1. Exactly, Brian. There’s no development framework to anticipate problems such as the traffic snarls at the corner of Cameron and Main. The medicentre continues to suffer from undersized parking spaces and blocked views of oncoming traffic. Needs a stop sign because anybody who trusts that crosswalk is gambling with his/her life.

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