Vivry Creek that is. Without sufficient water supply or sewer capacity, this project is literally up the creek. We need to address those issues and negotiate a fair and balanced cost to add the capacity needed to sewer and water so that a new development doesn’t cost existing taxpayers more money.
Nicanco’s Pine Beach proposal is, in my opinion, a great opportunity for Hudson and an necessary part of our future. It’s been in the works since 2001, much has changed and so needs to be adapted to today’s reality.
When it was first conceived and zoned, there was no sewer system in Hudson and we thought we had lots of water capacity. The original project approved was based on a shared septic plan. Without a connection to our treatment facility, I’d argue against this current planned expansion of the original zoning. I think it would be a bad choice to accept 200+ units on shared septic in such land at water’s edge.
The capital structures of sewer and water are very different in Hudson, so by necessity we need to treat them separately. Today I’ll opine on the sewers and what they should cost the project and not the taxpayers.
The debt for the sewer network and our Brick Shithouse Treatment plant are currently funded by only those who can be connected to the sewer network, approximately 900 ratepayers listed in something called Annex A. It is my opinion that those Annex A taxpayers need to have a say in approving the connection of a proposed 316 new units to the network and treatment.
We were told we had 20-25% overcapacity in the design of the treatment plant, and this Pine Beach development would be approximately a 35% increase in connections when fully built.So clearly, approving Pine Beach will, at some point in the planned seven year completion, require a significant and expensive expansion of our sewage treatment facility.
I don’t have the exact numbers, but I believe the Brick Shithouse Treatment plant cost approximately $8,000,000 to build and commission, divide by 900 connections and you get approximately $8,900.00 capital cost per home served. I believe expansion will be less costly than a new build, so I’ll call that 60% to add capacity and round it to $5,250 per connection.
In my opinion, we need to ensure that Hudson’s Sewage Treatment Network gets funded for an average of $5,250 per unit so we can expand it and maintain some overcapacity. These are hypothetical numbers and smarter people than me need to review and adjust them. I would propose to divide that average per connection cost into a habitable per square foot permitted to build cost, so if the average unit on Pine beach would be 1,600 square feet of habitable living space, the cost to fund sewage treatment would be $ 3.28/ Square foot.
I chose to propose a per square foot cost on the builder when the building is approved for several reasons:
To ensure that we’re funded early and progressively, without asking for a pile of money from the developer up front.
We get paid up front from the builder when a permit is issued to build, based on actual plans. If they didn’t have sewage treatment they’d have to pay to install septic and couldn’t build as many units.
To impact larger homes with larger costs and allow smaller condos with fewer bathrooms and occupants to have a smaller impact.
The funds so generated can be clearly segregated and allocated to a fund for Sewage Treatment expansion.
I’m betting that these units will sell for in the range of $300/square foot and a town willing to extend their existing sewage treatment plant for approximately 1% of a unit’s cost is not going to kill a sale.
Please note that it will remain the responsibility of the developer to provide collection, piping and pumping to get the sewage from Pine Beach to the pumping station by the community center. I’d like to see a twinned system, so that if a pump or pipe on the way to our system fails we have enough capacity to avoid overflows into the Ottawa River.
This is just one idea, but it’s simple and clear. We need to stop the post development financial bleeding we’ve had in the past where we’ve had to pave roads that developers should have paved and absorbed other costs.
Keep it simple, recognize that development might be necessary, but development should not cost existing users to spend more so we can add a development. I believe that we need to name the price for sewage treatment capacity up front as a condition of approving the project requiring connection. Not just on this project, but any future projects that wish to connect to our existing sewage treatment capacity.
A new name, 89 more doors, higher buildings, narrower streets and a PAE instead of a PIIA. That’s the crux of what urbanist Marc Perreault presented to a full house at last Thursday’s information meeting on Nicanco’s revised Sandy Beach development.
Renamed the Pine Beach Project, Version II would/will allow 41% greater density to compensate for 28.5% more protected space, the result of stricter development requirements imposed since 2001 by the provincial environment ministry. This slide from last Thursday’s presentation quantifies the differences:
Although the town council and administrative staff were present, they played no part in Perreault’s presentation other than the mayor urging questioners not to hog the mic. The tone of the three-hour session was was generally courteous. To judge from the crowd’s reaction to the points made, opinion on the merits of the project was fairly evenly split.
Perreault’s questioners raised a range of valid issues. Many wondered whether the town has the potable water and sewer capacity to accommodate possibly 1,000 additional residents. Others questioned the integrity of the Technika HBA flora and fauna study on which the environment ministry issued certificates of authorization. A consensus emerged that the beach servitude isn’t wide enough and there would/will be friction between residents of the new development and the beachgoing public because Nicanco is making no allowance for public parking.
You may have noticed my use of the words would/will. This is because it’s still not clear whether any part of Nicanco’s proposal is subject to referendum. I was told the Sandy Beach project was recognized as a Plan d’implementation et d’intégration architecturale, or PIIA. According to town urban planning director Natalie Lavoie, Hudson’s Town Planning Advisory Committee (TPAC) recommended the project’s PIIA status sometime around 2004. According to the municipal affairs ministry’s (MAMOT’s) PIIA guidelines, integrated projects must conform to the town’s master plan.
Between then and now, the project was transformed into a Plan d’aménagement d’ensemble, or PAE, a characterization which leaves the details to a municipality’s TPAC and urban planning department working in concert with the developer. The concern here, according to MAMOT, is that details tend to be overlooked. Perreault’s stock response last Thursday was that these things are difficult to foresee and must be worked out during the development process.
Asked what would happen if the project wasn’t approved, Perreault at first claimed it would revert back to the pre-2001 zoning allowing 29 single family homes (slide below). He corrected himself to say it would revert to the 2001 zoning, minus the additional wetland Nicanco has had to give up since, but including the beach servitude, now a notarized legal document. What I found interesting is that the view to the right still presents a beach servitude, suggesting that (a) this revision requires some form of approval, and (b) that they’re ready for a fight if it does. Does this mean Nicanco doesn’t want to revert to the 2001 zoning and densities provided in Bylaws 408 and 409? My understanding is that the 2001 referendum replaced the original single-family zoning, so it’s no longer an option. If not, then why pretend it is?
Here’s the core problem: Over the next seven years, Nicanco proposes to sell the right to develop to a number of different builders, specializing in the type of construction permitted in that sector. Perreault skimmed over that part of his presentation because it’s clear Nicanco wants to be out of this as soon as possible, leaving the municipality the task of policing contractors.
Given taxpayer aversion to hiring more permanent staff, this will be a problem.
There is a solution.
Much of the increased density will be restricted to the western edge of the 60-acre site, immediately opposite the Hudson Legion curling rink, Manoir Cavagnal and the public daycare. The quadrilateral is enclaved by Beach Road, AMT’s right of way and Viviry Creek flood zone. Even those petitioning for the town to explore possibilities for the outright purchase of all or part of Sandy Beach have said they have no issue with densification in this sector.
One suggestion to have emerged from last week’s information meeting: why not allow Nicanco to build high-rise towers in this western sector in exchange for public ownership of a much wider swath of land, including the beach? This fits with earlier suggestions to Nicanco that they densify upwards, generating more saleable water views while concentrating townhouse development in a ribbon along Royalview, thereby protecting those wetlands Nicanco is proposing to backfill.
This might be the only compromise that will satisfy the need for public parking and access to the existing public roads. The loudest, most concentrated opposition to Nicanco’s proposal comes from those who fear the developer’s beach servitude could easily be revoked in the event that residents of the townhouses are unhappy about unauthorized parking and people traipsing across their common properties. The save-the-beach lobby makes a good point.
My response to Peter Ratcliffe’s post and comments in the Off-Island Gazette is in the form of an MP4. It’s a recording of the emergency council meeting at the firehall where Mayor Ed Prévost announced town manager Catherine Haulard’s firing.
It’s just under 80 minutes long, a stunning example of an improvised, ill-considered decision that cost the town in excess of $200,000. It’s too large a file to post on WordPress or email but I’ll be happy to copy it onto anybody’s thumb drive if they stop by.
The Haulard file is just one of many.
For the two years Louise Craig and I have attempted to obtain a detailed list of the legal files this administration has shopped out to external legal counsel. We were assured repeatedly by members of this council basic information regarding each mandate would be posted on the town website. This was never done.
Here’s a comment I received from one of the people targeted by the town’s legal pit bulls. “Ratcliffe…keeps stating the town is defending itself. HE IS SO WRONG. IN MOST CASES THe TERMINATED /SUSPENDED PEOPLE WERE ATTACKED by the TOWN (and forced to defend themselves- with their OWN MONEY. The town playing victim here is totally totally off.”
Anyone who has had dealings with lawyers quickly realizes they’re a last resort. This administration has made it a policy to consult with lawyers instead of using basic common sense. We could have repaved most of town for the cost of what I see as fiscal abuse. Unlike my colleague, I will continue to hold this administration accountable for what I see as a dereliction of fiscal stewardship.
I was quoted on how I feel about Hudson’s big legal bills in the Off Island section of the Montreal Gazette this morning, article by Albert Kramberger, Here’s the full text of my response to his emailed question last week, because they cut and paste and use what they want.
For openness and clarity and no one surprised I had openly copied Council and Mayor Prevost when I responded as well.
My reactions to Hudson’s legal bills:
Qualified anger and significant concern would be my simplistic response at the huge legal costs, but directed at the underlying reasons and the few people not on current Council who have taken actions that resulted in these inflated costs in both time and distraction.
There may have been some very minor errors in exact procedures by a new Council, but I believe that there has been absolutely no bad faith or inappropriate action by any of the currently sitting Council and Mayor. We citizens are correctly kept blind of details in most cases by confidentiality required in some of these issues, but from my view the bulk of the causes have seemed like an organized multi-pronged predation by a limited number of sources. Mayor Prevost and Council have been forced to protect the Town interests and their own reputations aggressively because of these outside actions, so I fully understand the reasons for the number of files and costs. Clearly our Town’s lawyers are both cautious and expensive, we need to manage those points into the future.
Perhaps you should be asking those who would have most benefitted had Council not defended themselves adequately? And questioning the myriad of legal protections of municipal employees who are rightly or wrongly terminated or leave their position.
A municipal government seems an easy target of frivolous claims likely to pay out rather than fight. I am proud that we’ve defended not just our Town but the honour of those elected to serve us, but am disgusted by the legal system that allows this type of expensive process to reduce the resources we can allocate to important things.
This week produced a flood of documents relating to the Sandy Beach development. I’ve distilled them into a dozen questions looking for clear answers at Thursday evening’s public consultation on Nicanco Holdings Inc.’s request to revise the 2001 zoning and density bylaws. Thanks to all who shared this information.
The deeper I dig into what has gone on since Hudson residents approved the development of Sandy Beach in 2001, the more concerned I am that we’re not asking the right questions.
This isn’t about whether Sandy Beach should be developed. That has already been decided by referendum, followed by regulatory approvals by provincial, regional and local governments. This is about how Sandy Beach will be developed and the impact it will have on the natural beauty of this place. It’s about whether Hudson’s taxpayers will be saddled with the collateral costs of development.
Density and visual impact
– What is the proposed residential density being sought? How does it compare with the density approved in 2001? What will the result look like?
According to Quebec’s lobbying register, Nicanco’s urban planning consultant Marc Perreault is mandated to lobby the Town of Hudson for approval of a residential development including single-family homes and multi-family units of two to four storeys and a density of at least 40 units per hectare.
I’ve been told Nicanco’s development footprint has been reduced to 12.5 hectares as a result of wetland trades authorized by the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, and Action against Climate Change (MDDELCC) to bring this project into conformity with the town’s yet-to-be-approved conservation plan. Pro-mayor Deborah Woodhead confirmed at last week’s council meeting the revision would allow 210 doors.
Three storeys are the height of the Chateau du Lac, Westwood Senior and the new condos at 450 Main. Hudson currently has no four-storey structures. Now picture yourself in a kayak 500 feet offshore and imagine what that would look like. Pierrefonds. Laval.
Drinking water and wastewater
– What is the estimated potable water budget for 210 residential units? How is the town proposing to guarantee the additional volume?
During summer peak usage periods, Hudson consumes 300 cubic feet more per minute than its wells produce, drawing down the town’s water reserves. Recent fires have shown the town is vulnerable to serious pressure drops even in winter.
– How is Nicanco proposing to connect its project to the municipal sewer system? Does the system have the capacity to handle in excess of 200 new doors? If not, how much will the upgrade cost? Who will pay for it?
Nicanco proposes to run a collector the full length of Royalview and westward to include proposed multi-unit development on R-22. The above document confirms Nicanco withdrew its request for a sewer line running under the AMT right-of-way to the existing town pumping station in the Legion Curling Club parking lot. We believe Nicanco now proposes to save time by using an existing line under the tracks which had connected Manoir Cavagnal to its pre-sewer septic system.
– Is the former Manoir Cavagnal sewer line and existing pumping station capable of handling peak sewage flow from 210 doors? (The Manoir has fewer than 100). Can it be upgraded without a new certificate of authorization? What impact will it have on the tax bills of sewered property owners?
– Will raw sewage from Nicanco’s project be allowed to dump into the Viviry? Under what conditions? What constitutes an emergency?
What’s important in this diagram is how the emergency overflow from the Beach pumping station flows directly into the Viviry opposite the Legion. I’ve been told this pumping station has been problematic from Day 1. The existing certificate of authorization (CA) from the MDDELCC allows emergency-only discharge into the Viviry – but this is without the addition of Nicanco’s 210 doors.
– What has been and will be done to protect wetlands, woodlands and rare, at-risk and endangered species they contain?
In October 2010 Nicanco Holdings Inc. applied to MDDELCC for permission to backfill a 1.58-hectare (3.9 acre) wetland. In March 2014 MDDELCC approved an internal wetland trade which allows the developer the right to backfill 1.58 hectares (3.9 acres) in exchange for moving 2.33 hectares (5.75 acres) into the conservation zone. This trade was largely based on data collected for the 2008 Technika-HBA flora/fauna audit. The audit team’s findings regarding the presence of rare, at-risk and endangered species have since been challenged. I doubt this will have much of an impact on development plans, but it does nothing to reassure environmentalists the town and the MDDELCC are on the case.
If you can pull the above map up to 300% magnification, follow the thin T-profile red line along the lake. I think this is the 25-year flood line. Now compare this with the map below:
Nicanco’s developable footprint has been reduced to 56% of the total land area, making beach access a major bargaining chip.
None of the documents I’ve seen so far indicate whether the beach servitude is taken from the mean high water line, chart datum line or to 25-year flood line.
The best scenario for beach users would be the 25-year line because it extends well past the road into the woods.
This reinforces my point that whoever is negotiating this for the town needs to know the file backwards.
Here’s an example of how the town could lose control: In March 2015, Nicanco signed a notarized Restriction of Use agreement transferring approximately one hectare to the existing conservation zone. Under this agreement, Nicanco retains ownership. This restriction of use agreement prohibits lawns, landscaping, pruning or cutting of underbrush, pesticide use, recreational facilities, garden furniture and sheds or storage but allows walking, skiing, snowshoeing, berry picking and pest control. It also allows the cutting of dead and dangerous trees with a permit from the town up to 15% of the total canopy over 15 years.
However, it gives special tree-cutting status to the owners of two lots.
– Explain the location and significance of this and other restriction-of-use agreements in plain language.
The only existing house on Royalview, one of five single-family dwellings authorized, is currently connected to a septic tank even though it is located in the 100-year flood zone.
– Will these five doors be connected to the sewer system?
Nicanco has the option of running an access road connecting Royalview with Quarry Point Road opposite Green Lane.
– Will the town approve a road connection to Royalview via Quarry Point Road?
Until a rezoning bylaw is presented, everything is on the table. The current administration has a narrow window of opportunity to cut a better deal than the 2001 agreement. The worst that could happen is a reversion to Bylaws 408 and 409. The worst? A referendum approving a much worse arrangement that will end up costing the town money it doesn’t have to deal with infrastructure issues I’ve raised.
The following is what I expect will happen at next Thursday’s public meeting regarding Hudson’s Sandy Beach. This comes from a variety of sources, none of whom is authorized to speak on the record.
Nicanco Holdings Inc., owner of the 60-acre Sandy Beach parcel delineated in the map above, wants a zoning change to permit a greater density. Bylaws 408 and 409, adopted by referendum in September 2001, gave Nicanco the right to build up to 150 units.
Nicanco’s requested zoning change would allow 210 units, well short of MRC/PMAD densification guidelines.
Quebec requires all zoning bylaws to be subject to approval by referendum unless a municipality seeks provincial approval for a Plan particular d’urbanism, or PPU. There is no indication the town has made such a request.
However, even if citizens reject Nicanco’s bid for greater density, the municipal affairs ministry and other sources have confirmed that zoning reverts to the previous zoning, in this case Bylaws 408-409.
Bylaws 408-409 created three zones. R-6 (11.6 acres), the closest to Quarry Point, would allow five single-family residences on 40,000-square-foot waterfront lots. R-7 (23.65 acres), the largest sector, would permit four units per hectare, equivalent to 25 single-family units or 95 townhouses. R-8 (10.6 acres), across the tracks from Manoir Cavagnal and to the west of the Viviry footpath, would allow 12 single-family dwellings, 40 multi-family units or a 50-door seniors residence with a maximum height of three storeys, or 42 feet.
Back to Thursday’s meeting, where I’m told citizens will hear presentations from Nicanco and the Town of Hudson. As I write this, the meeting serves no legal purpose. Quebec’s rezoning protocols stipulate that any public consultation on a zoning proposal be preceded by a Notice of Motion and adoption of a draft bylaw. The administration could do both at a special public meeting prior to the meeting but would have to do so with 24 hours notice and post the time, place and date on the bulletin board at Hudson town hall. Such a meeting would be open to questions from residents.
I’m keeping an eye on the town hall bulletin board for a change in status. I’m also mindful that anything said at a public meeting (other than a council meeting) is subject to libel.
Nicanco’s presentation, likely given by urban planner Marc Perreault, will concentrate on aspects of the project such as architecture, construction standards, average density, structure footprints, parking, security and pedestrian walkways.
Perreault was Nicanco’s representative at the June 2001 public information meeting and has worked on the Sandy Beach development for most of his working life. He knows every detail, including how the 2008 Technika-HBA woodland/wetland audit overlays the 60-acre site. (Sandy Beach: the core problem, http://www.thousandlashes.ca)
We know Nicanco’s development plans hit an environmental barrier following the adoption of stricter environment ministry guidelines sometime after 2001. Nicanco’s problem was a 1.5-hectare wetland in R-7, the zone where it had hoped to build townhouses. The project was blocked until 2012, when a new provincial law (Bill 73) permitted wetland trades to unblock development of environmentally sensitive areas. As a result, developers could buy the right to backfill a wetland by preserving in perpetuity a wetland of equal or superior environmental value in the same watershed.
Nicanco moved quickly to take advantage of the new law, pressuring the municipal administration of the time to provide a wetland that would satisfy the ministry’s requirements.
The town, sensitive to the optics of spending tax dollars on land to satisfy a developer, tried everything short of buying wetland. It offered a wetland it had just acquired opposite the new sewage treatment plant. The ministry told the town it couldn’t protect what it already owned. Then the town offered a parcel of the Viviry Valley Conservation Area acquired as a result of the Whitlock West deal. The ministry told the town it couldn’t protect what it had already protected. In desperation the town offered a parcel in Como it would acquire in exchange for a tax credit. I don’t know what happened to that deal, which went down during Hudson’s darkest days between April and November 2013.
In the end, Nicanco came up with its own solution, reconfiguring its Sandy Beach development plan to guarantee 3.5 hectares of R-7 near the beach in exchange for the right to backfill 1.5 hectares of wetland closer to Royalview.
I suspect this exchange is why Nicanco is rolling the dice in the hope of getting greater densification.
I’m told Nicanco’s latest proposal would limit its construction footprint to 12.5 hectares, or 31 acres, representing 56% of the total land area of Sandy Beach. I don’t know if the 56% includes roads, setbacks, footpaths and public space, but it may be less than the 2001 deal.
Bylaws 408-409 gave the town 20% of the total greenspace and preserved 75% of the pine forest and 50% of the total forest canopy. The town got the use of, and legal access to, 1,186 feet of beachfront and 11 acres of greenspace. Nobody can tell me whether those numbers have changed in the latest proposal.
So the big challenge at Thursday’s meeting will be to determine how this latest proposal compares with the 2001 status quo.
Meanwhile, the town will present details of its plan to ensure greater security and control access to Jack Layton Park, Sandy Beach Nature Park and the beach area. This will include fencing, public parking, lifeguards and regular water quality testing. The town intends to enforce curfews,, leash laws and nuisance bylaws targeting loud music, fires, alcohol and drug consumption. It will also ban watercraft from the beach area.
I expect the town to announce tariffs for non-residents. I don’t know how this will play, but it might be popular with residents who resent the wave of humanity descending on the beach every summer weekend.
“Oka Provincial Park charges $25 for daily access,” I was told. “People come [to Sandy Beach] from all over and don’t pay. Hudson residents tell me they’re afraid to use the beach because of the broken glass, open alcohol consumption and dogs running in the water.”
Council has budgeted $250,000 in its 2017 triennial capital works (PTI) budget to cover the cost of securing the beach.
I’ve been following endless Facebook threads regarding the project, including those pushing the town to buy the site outright. Organizers of an online petition claim to have gathered 1,000+ signatures to pressure the Prévost administration to negotiate an outright purchase of Sandy Beach.
With respect to those who have expended their time and energy on this, we’ve been this way before (A Short History of Sandy Beach, http://www.thousandlashes.ca) and the path goes nowhere. As we saw in 1998, the public gets enthusiastic when someone proposes a simple solution to a complex problem, then quickly loses interest when there’s no immediate gratification.
We can rule out expropriation because of the legal costs and the risk of losing. It cost Hudson $575,000 to purchase from Graeme Nesbitt the wetland opposite the sewage treatment plant on Wharf Road. Nesbitt took the town to court because a storm sewer discharging onto Nesbitt’s land had killed all the trees. Nesbitt proposed to sell it to the town for less than $200,000 but the administration at that time wouldn’t hear of it and moved to expropriate. The town ended up paying Nesbitt $500,000. Another $75,000 disappeared into thin air, allegedly because former town manager and clerk Louise Villandré cut her phantom suppliers three $25,000 cheques.
Even without the fraud surtax, the expropriation attempt was a disaster because one never knows what the expropriation tribunal will decide. No sane administration would roll the dice for parkland its citizens already enjoy access to.
Others posting on Facebook would have us believe there’s a Hail Mary solution, like the cost of an overpass on the Beach Road crossing. The AMT owns the right of way (the AMT’s contribution in lieu of taxes forms part of the $113,430 the town will receive in 2017) and oversees roughly 100 of what the Canadian Transportation Safety Board characterizes as low-speed level crossings throughout its network. (Hudson alone accounts for Beach, Main, Bellevue plus a number of unsignalled crossings, such as the one on Montée Manson.)
At this point, the Save-the-Beach lobby is reduced to praying for rare and endangered species and hoping for a First Nations intervention.
One possible issue might be legal lapses but I have yet to find any. Nicanco and the Town of Hudson have already concluded a number of enabling agreements. One is the beach servitude, posted here.
Another is a March 2009 certificate of authorization signed by the environment ministry’s regional director Pierre Paquin, allowing Nicanco to connect to the town sewage system via the pumping station next to the Legion curling club. This agreement also stipulates exactly how Nicanco must run a sewer line across the Viviry next to the road bridge and decrees the protocol to be followed in the event of a sewage overflow.
Without a cadastral map and access to the Registre immobilier du Québec, it’s next to impossible to determine whether the full and legal transfer of greenspace and servitudes described here has taken place.
An outright purchase by the town, heritage protection body or other agency is wishful thinking, especially when its proponents argue that the selling price for Sandy Beach should be its municipal evaluation, roughly $1.5 million. Anyone familiar with real estate knows valuation has no bearing on asking or selling price.
Nicanco has already told the town it will claim a real ‘manque a gagner’ of $2 million as well as all costs incurred to date and the potential value under current zoning. I’ve been told it’s in excess of $23M. I’ve seen the letter exchange between Perreault and members of the group exploring outright purchase. It’s clear from Perreault’s dismissive tone he doesn’t propose to waste time on further discussions.
Here’s the bottom line: Nicanco is gambling that residents opposed to this latest rezoning request will force it to a referendum, just as they did in 2001. And just as they did in 2001 – with 862 of 3,418 eligible voters voting 72% in favour of the project – a majority of residents will support the rezoning. Nicanco will get the greater density it needs to attract builders and repay stakeholders for the loss of income and interest incurred over the past 16 years.
If Nicanco loses, the zoning reverts to Bylaws 408-409.
Either way, Hudson residents will continue to enjoy the beach and trail network in perpetuity while Nicanco pays taxes on it.
It’s a purely financial equation that has nothing to do with saving Sandy Beach. The part of Sandy Beach we love and use has already been saved. The only question is how much more Nicanco can wring from the deal.
The core problem in the latest Sandy Beach debate is Hudson’s lack of a conservation plan which presents developers with a set of ‘facts on the ground’ before they submit subdivision plans to town hall. One can’t but help wonder whether this soap opera would have played out differently if successive administrations had made it a priority instead of a tedious bureaucratic chore.
A conservation plan consists of two elements: a detailed flora/fauna inventory of wetlands and woodlots, and an administrative framework to ensure the protection of the municipality’s most environmentally sensitive areas.
The first element, the Technika-HBA wetland/greenspace audit was presented to a handful of residents at a special meeting in June 2008. Nicanco Holdings Inc. president Hans Muhlegg was among those present. You’ll find it posted at the bottom of this page.
The CIMA+ Conservation Plan, which you’ll find on the town’s website, was presented to residents last August. It can’t be adopted by council and married with the MRC’s master development plan until approved by the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, and Action against Climate Change, then subjected to a second public consultation. As I write this it still sits with Quebec.
The Technika audit was carried out by a team of biologists between April 25 and September 3, 2007. A followup visit took place in May 2008 to confirm findings. The team visited 63 wetlands and woodlands found throughout Hudson’s 2,185 hectares, leaving out only those which are already zoned as parkland or too small to characterize. They narrowed their list to 15 woodlands and 26 wetlands.
Two of those woodlands (Bi-11, Bi-15) and one wetland (MH-10) are part of Nicanco’s Sandy Beach Holdings. Among the threatened, vulnerable or at-risk species either present or possibly present: Climbing Fumitory (adlumia fungosa), Maidenhair Fern (adiantum pedatum), Putty-root Orchid (aplectrum hyemale).
All or parts of all three appear to lie within the 20% greenspace allocation Nicanco undertook to deed to the town as a result of the adoption by referendum of Bylaws 408 and 409 on Sept. 30, 2001. Apart from this surveyor’s map, I can find no record of a cadastral transfer. (I was given a photo of the beach servitude surveyor’s document, but this isn’t a transfer of property.)
The following paragraphs are taken verbatim from the Technika-HBA audit. (I highly recommend that anyone wishing to understand this file takes the time to read the audit I’m posting. You’ll need it to crack the map code, which includes references to threatened, vulnerable and at-risk species.)
Parmi les 15 boisés d’intérêt sélectionnés pour la classification écologique, deux boisés se
distinguent des autres avec des pointages nettement supérieurs; il s’agit du Bi-3 (97 points) et du Bi-8 (82 points). Les autres boisés d’intérêt présentent des pointages allant de 34 à 64. Le pointage attribué à chacun des 8 critères en fonction de chaque milieu est présenté au tableau 13.
Le boisé d’intérêt Bi-3, notamment de par sa grande superficie (contient deux secteurs), la
présence de trois espèces floristiques à statut précaire, la présence de milieux hydriques et le caractère majoritairement naturel du milieu environnant, a obtenu la plus forte valeur
écologique. Le boisé d’intérêt Bi-8 vient en deuxième place et est caractérisé par un vieux
peuplement inéquienne d’une grande superficie contenant une grande biodiversité d’espèces floristiques ainsi que deux espèces floristiques à statut précaire. En troisième place, le boisé d’intérêt Bi-11 est caractérisé par son niveau de rareté, sa biodiversité floristique, la présence d’un cours d’eau permanent qui font de ce peuplement un milieu à forte valeur écologique.
Des trente-cinq milieux humides présents sur l’ensemble du territoire, 26 ont servi à la
classification écologique. Le milieu humide MH-25 se distingue des autres avec un pointage de 87. Il est suivi par les milieux humides MH-8 et MH-10 qui ont un pointage similaire de 82. Le pointage pour les autres milieux se situe entre 74 et 29. Le pointage attribué à chacun des 8 critères en fonction de chaque milieu est présenté au tableau 14.
Le milieu humide MH-25 est une tourbière boisée qui, notamment par sa rareté, sa grande
superficie, sa biodiversité élevée et son hydroconnectivité avec un cours d’eau permanent et un autre intermittent, a obtenu la plus forte valeur écologique.
Juxtaposé au boisé d’intérêt Bi-6, le milieu humide MH-8 est un complexe de milieux humides composé d’un marais à quenouilles et roseau commun ainsi que d’un marécage riverain. Présentant la plus grande superficie, ce milieu humide contient une grande diversité d’espèces floristiques, de même qu’une espèce floristique à statut précaire. Il est en lien hydrologique avec la rivière Viviry et présente un bon potentiel de mise en valeur.
Le milieu humide MH-10 est lui aussi un complexe de milieux humides, situé aux abords de la rivière des Outaouais. Composé d’un marais riverain et d’un marécage arborescent riverain, une partie de ce milieu est comprise dans l’ensemble des parcs et espaces verts de la ville d’Hudson.
Most of Hudson’s most environmentally sensitive and biodiverse wetlands and woodland lie outside the urban core and fall under the protection of the Commission de protection des terres agricoles (CPTAQ). For example, Bi-3 and Bi-8 are both in the west end to the south of developed areas. MH-8 is part of the Viviry Valley Conservation Area. But, as you’ll discover trekking through these documents, a number of others are in the direct path of a developing urban core.
The Technika-HBA audit’s conclusion doesn’t mince words.
Les 63 milieux naturels cartographiés et caractérisés présentés dans ce rapport possèdent une valeur significative due à leur rôle écologique important et aux services rendus à la
collectivité. De plus, la caractérisation effectuée permet de mieux connaître la valeur
exceptionnelle de certains milieux et présente ainsi un bon outil pour l’élaboration d’un plan de conservation et de gestion des milieux humides et naturels du territoire de la ville d’Hudson.
The following is the Technika-HBA audit: rap-s88002
Note: I’ll be posting separately on Monday’s night’s discussion concerning the Sandy Beach development.
The Town of Hudson adopted a revised 2017 budget at a special meeting Monday evening, cutting more than $800,000 from its $13,185,890 fiscal exercise approved in December.
The revision was the result of a complaint during the Dec. 21 budget meeting from Como resident Marcus Owen, who noted that the projected increase in the general tax rate was closer to 9.4% than the less than 5% claimed. The town labelled it an honest mistake and announced it would table a revised budget.
The revision drops all four property tax rates an average of four cents per $100 evaluation. The total debt service tax remains unchanged at just under nine cents per $100. (I’m posting my three-budget comparison comparing tax rates and tariffs.)
As for tariffs, the big change is a $44 reduction in the bill to properties located on the sewer system. The town was apprised of a provincial regulation that everyone capable of connecting to a service is legally obligated to pay for it even if they opt not to connect. Approximately 90 properties are thus added to the sewer tariff roll, reducing the cost per address.
Residential green and blue bin collection will increase by $1.50 per household and drop by $2 for large commercial property owners.
Council had hoped to placate residents by emphasizing the minimal increase ($325,630) between the 2017 revision and the 2016 budget. Instead, questioners homed in on why the town chose to defer repayment of long-term debt rather than cutting operating costs.
Under treasurers Sylvain Bernard and Serge Raymond, the town had concentrated on paying down more than $30 million in long-term debt. In 2015, the town directed nearly $1M to debt reimbursement and succeeded in reducing the total to $28.9M. In 2016, council earmarked $877,610 for debt reduction; this, together with fuel tax rebates and government grant obligations reduced the total to $25.4M.
This year’s revised budget, with just $131,100 earmarked for debt reimbursement and capital expenditures, still shows the town’s long-term debt reduced to $23.4M.
The budget adoption meeting was followed by the scheduled February council meeting, where the town’s escalating overhead was the major topic during opening and closing question periods.
The town’s legal bills were an obvious question period target. Elm resident Bill Driver sought confirmation the town has spent $917,000 over the past two years, leading others to speculate on how that sum would have covered the $746,510 cut in long-term debt service or rebuilding Hudson’s crumbing infrastructure.
So was the skyrocketing general administration budget, which has grown from $1.7 million in the 2016 budget to $2.25 actual, to just under $2.5 million in 2017, leading Melrose resident Jim McDermott to urge the town to start cutting and Charleswood resident Louise Craig to question the 28% increase in the parks, recreation and culture budget. The department will receive $1.5 million in 2017, up from $1.2 million in 2016.
Residents concerned about the town’s growing full-time payroll questioned council’s approval of a resolution hiring a full-time employee on a 12-month contract to seek out and file applications for grants and subsidies for various construction projects. He’ll receive a salary of $58,500 and bonuses totalling $3,000 if he meets the town’s objectives, explained director-general Jean-Pierre Roy. The grant writer’s duties will include compiling an intervention plan, Roy said, adding “we really need an intervention plan…it should have been done 10 years ago. This is one of our challenges – catching up with the past 10 years.” (See Buy a ticket, http://www.thousandlashes.ca)
Even snow removal and the contractor’s liberal use of the town’s salt stockpile came under attack. This year’s contract went to low bidder Transport André Leroux, whose $450,000 bid came in well under last winter’s $625,000 contract. Quarry Point resident Helen Kurgansky told the meeting numbers show the town has spent $148,000 on salt so far and asked who decides when to spread it. Earlier, a Fairhaven resident noted the town spent $100,000 on salt in one month, adding that twice in the past week the contractor has needlessly spread salt on his street.
Roy confirmed the contractor decides when to spread salt and said he’ll monitor its use.
In response to a question from Blenkinship resident Jamie Nicholls about a salt management plan, councillor Ron Goldenberg followed up with the news the town is looking into the comparative costs of in-house snow removal and salting versus contracting it out.
Previous administrations have been pressured by the town’s environment committee to reduce salt use because it encourages the roadside proliferation of noxious weeds, such as poison ivy and ragweed. The environment committee is no more but ragweed and poison ivy are thriving.
Comparison of 2016/2017/2017 revised taxes and tariffs
2016 budget: $12,053,290
2016 residential/agricultural tax rate: 69 cents per $100
2016 non-residential tax rate: 74.73 cents per $100
2016 vacant land tax rate: 83.67 cents per $100
2016 debt service tax rate: 11 cents per $100
2017 budget: $13,185,890
2017 residential/agricultural tax rate: 76 cents per $100
2017 non-residential tax rate: 81.47 cents per $100
2017 vacant land tax rate: 91.22 cents per $100
2017 debt service tax rate: 8.85 cents per $100
2017 revised budget: $12,378,920
2017 revised residential/agricultural tax rate: 71.97 cents per $100 (reduction)
2017 revised non-residential tax rate: 77.13 cents per $100 (reduction)
2017 revised vacant land tax rate: 86.36 cents per $100 (reduction)
2017 revised debt service tax: 8.85 cents per $100 (unchanged)
Story and photo by Jim Duff
Sandy Beach Nature Trail regulars are in shock over seeing the stone-filled culvert installed by Allen Blenkinship in the late 1950s replaced by a temporary wooden bridge some 20 feet upstream.
Last summer’s torrential rains caused the Viviry to back up behind the culvert, prompting concerns of a washout similar to that on McNaughten. So the former council contracted with Arcade Inc., the company building the new boardwalk over the mouth of the Viviry, to dig out the half-century-old culvert. The work was completed last week.
Hudson town inspector Natalie Lavoie said the temporary bridge will be replaced after Christmas by a permanent wooden structure where Blenkinship’s bridge once conveyed paying customers traffic down to the beach for a day’s outing or to stay in the rental cottages along the shore.
The plans to replace the culvert with a wooden span required approval from the provincial environment ministry and Hans Muhlegg, owner of most of Sandy Beach, she added.
By design or by chance, Arcade’s construction crew positioned the temporary wooden span atop two rows of massive flat stones on each bank — exactly where McGill historian and Hudson Historical Society consultant Maben Poirier believes Marcellin Farand dit Vivarais anchored the dam that powered his gristmill at the turn of the 18th century.
If so, the bridge is sitting on the last vestiges of Hudson’s pre-conquest New France heritage.
Poirier anchors his belief in oral history and admittedly incomplete seignieurial documents. “I well remember when I first heard Marcellin Farand’s name in connection with this piece of land,” he writes in a brief history on the HHS website. Blenkinship was straightening out the gravel road leading down to the waterfront and replacing the old bridge that crossed the Viviry.
“As the old bridge was being dismantled, Allen observed, ‘See those rocks that are just below the abutment for the old bridge? They were placed there by Marcellin Farand, when he operated a small mill at this precise location.’”
Poirier continues: “…the well positioned flat stones situated on the very edge of the stream…were certainly not the product of happenstance, nor were they needed as support by the old bridge, which was resting at least six inches above the stones. As Allen spoke, some amongst us had visions of a small lake backing up behind a low dam. We could see that it all made sense, given the lay of the land. It was the perfect place for a small mill and a low-lying dam that would have been capable of backing up the waters of the Viviry for about 150 feet or more in what was a natural basin.”
Standing on the bank of the river bearing the name of that first settler, Poirier theorized what would have brought Vivarais to the region. The 1689 Lachine Massacre, in which scores of settlers were slaughtered by the Iroquois, was still fresh enough in everyone’s minds that they lived in stockades for part of the year. Vivarais may have moved into the general area some time after the signing of the Great Peace of 1701, initially as a summer resident who spent his winters at the fort at Oka.
Poirier’s thumbnail history on the HHS website traces the land through a succession of owners to the Blenkinships, part of the wave of Cumberland settlers who settled here in the first half of the 19th century and whose family names endure to this day.
He admitted to being less concerned once he had seen the site. “I don’t suppose they’ll have done much damage if they stick to where Blenkinship’s bridge was,” Poirier added. “But I wish they’d consult with us before they start digging.”
Note: This was the front-page story in the Hudson Gazette, March 25, 1998. It serves to remind Hudsonites what has changed and what remains the same. In 2000, Hudson had a population of 5,408, an annual budget of $3,595,183 and was running a surplus.
The fate of one of Hudson’s last remaining pieces of waterfront greenspace depends on whether there’s a market for single-family homes on the 60-acre site – or whether the owners will be permitted to rezone the area for multi-family dwellings.
The Hudson Gazette has learned that representatives of the owners of Sandy Beach met two weeks ago with Hudson Mayor Steve Shaar and others to discuss the possibility of zoning changes for the environmentally sensitive area.
Marc Hiligua, project manager for Nicanco Holdings Inc. confirmed his company is in the process of conducting a marketing study. “We are working on different schemes for the property,” said Hiligua.
Until the analysis is complete, he added, there won’t be a decision on how the land may be developed.
Any development will take into account the many trees on the property, said Hiligua. As we reported in our February 25th issue, an inventory of trees on the Sandy Beach site is being conducted as required by the zoning bylaw for the area which includes Sandy Beach.
Nicanco owns the tract at the foot of Beach Road, evaluated at $2,377,000, and the lot at 397 Halcro, evaluated at $423,000.
Once zoned for single-family dwellings on 40,000-square-foot lots, the town’s 1994 master plan made Nicanco’s holdings part of a new zone which would permit condominiums, semi-detached homes and townhouses.
Planning Committee chair Elizabeth Corker believes a development of single-family homes on the property would not be economically viable.
“At least 10 per cent of it is in the flood zone,” she said. “The developer has to give the town 10 per cent in greenspace.” Another 15 per cent would be required for roads and other infrastructures, meaning there would probably be room for about 30 homes. Septic systems could also be a problem that close to the Lake of Two Mountains.
“The only way they can make it pay is to go up,” commented former Hudson Mayor Taylor Bradbury. “Then they could have a common septic system.”
Multi-family homes would require a zoning change, said Corker. That would mean a public notice, a public information meeting and registration on the bylaw amendment. “Citizens would have their day in court…if citizens voted against it, it would not fly.”
Speculation about the future of the Sandy Beach property has raged ever since Blenkinship Farm was sold by the original owner’s heirs in the early sixties. The 60 acres at the foot of Beach Road is evaluated at $2.8 million, down from a high of $4.25 million a decade ago.
Over the years, Hudson residents have pressured the Town to purchase the property for public use. The last occasion was in 1994, when the site was suggested for the new Community Centre. The response has always been the same: it’s too expensive.
The Town came closest to acquiring Sandy Beach in the early 60s, ex-mayor Taylor Bradbury told the Hudson Gazette.
Council turned down a chance to buy the beach for $200,000. “For what?” asked Bradbury. An engineering study concluded that it was not worth purchasing just for the beach, he said. “We had Thompson Park and the Marina. We had water outlets. What good is it in wintertime?” he asked.
The property was eventually sold for $450,000. The latest registered owner is a Mr. Muhlegg, who originally purchased it through a company called Circo Craft. The land is still owned by Muhlegg through Nicanco Holdings Inc.
Ex-mayor Bradbury has a warning for anyone who thinks rezoning Sandy Beach will be easy. He gives as an example the Alstonvale Project, forced to a referendum before the zoning changes were approved in 1989. In that case, 574 acres were zoned for a golf course and single-family homes.
Ten years and a real-estate recession later, the Alstonvale development is on the verge of proceeding – but only after its owners agreed to the original zoning parameters.
Speculation about the future of the Sandy Beach property has been on and off ever since Blenkinship Farm was sold by the son and daughter of the original owner in the early sixties. The 60 acres of land lies along the waterfront off Beach Road. The current evaluation is $2.8 million, down from a high of $4.25 million.
The early sixties were probably the only time that the Town could have bought the land. The opportunity was turned down. “We could have got it for $200,000,” former mayor Taylor Bradbury admitted. “For what?” he asked. A study was done by a local engineer and the conclusion was that it was not worth purchasing it just for the beach. “We had Thompson Park and the Marina. We had water outlets,” said Bradbury. “What good is it in wintertime?” he asked.
The property was eventually sold for $450,000 to Claudette Boyer. About 12 years ago it was purchased by Hans Muhlegg, originally through Circo Craft, Muhlegg’s circuit-board manufacturing business. The land is still owned by Muhlegg through his company Nicanco Holdings Inc.
There are signs that the status quo may change. Recently, a study was done of the trees on the property. Then there was a meeting with the mayor of Hudson a couple of weeks ago. Project Manager Marc Hiligua told the Hudson Gazette that the the company is now in the process of conducting a marketing study. ‘We are working on different schemes for the property,” he said. Until the analysis is complete, he added, there won’t be a decisions on how the land may be developed.
The company owns two pieces of land. The larger piece off Beach Road is evaluated at $2,377,000. The smaller piece, at 397 Halcro, is evaluated at $423,000.
Hiligua stressed that the company will take into account the many trees on the property. “We want to see what we have there,” he said. He also said that the company’s intention was to make any development the “best possible” for Hudson. “It is a very beautiful property,” he commented.
The speculation continues. The land now is zoned for single family dwellings on 40,000 square foot lots. when the Town’s Master Plan was completed in 1994. It now is also part of a new PAE zone, a comprehensive development area (area for future development) which could be considered for other types of housing eg. condominiums, semi-detached homes, townhouses, among other things.
The chairman of Hudson’s Consultative Town Planning Committee, Elizabeth Corker, points out that a development of single-family homes on the property would not be economically viable. “Probably at least 10% of it is in the flood zone,” she said. “The developer has to give 10% in green space.” Adding to that another 15% which has to be set aside for roads and other infrastructures, there would probably only be room possibly for only about 30 homes. Septic systems could also be a problem.
“The only way they can make it pay, is to go up,” commented Bradbury.
“Then they could have a common septic system.”
To have multi-family homes would, however, require a zoning change. That would mean a public notice, a public information meeting and registration on the by-law amendment. “Citizens would have their day in court,” said Corker. “If citizens voted against it, it would not fly.”
There are echoes of another development project at the west end of Town, the Alstonvale, project which had to go to a referendum before the zoning changes were approved in 1989. In that case 574 acres were zoned for a golf course and single-family homes. That project , the brainchild of a group of mainly local residents, then stalled, but is now on the verge of going ahead after two thirds of the land were purchased last year by local developer, Daniel Rodrigue (Constructions de Luxe Contemporaine). By keeping within the framework of the original project, no by-law amendment is required for that development.
Bradbury, who remembers well the divisiveness of the Alstonvale referendum, warns that the town” may have trouble with the citizens” if there is a by-law amendment for the Sandy Beach property.
A number of citizens over the years have asked the Town to purchase the property for public use. The response has always been the same: it’s too expensive. The site was also suggested as a possible location for the Town’s new Community Centre when the Town decided to apply for a Federal/Provincial infrastructure grant in 1994, but again rejected it as too costly.
The Sandy Beach area is now used by residents to walk their dogs and has become a popular spot for teens to hang out during the summer.
Rumours abound with respect to looming development at Sandy Beach, especially among the nature mavens and dog lovers who stroll the locale’s peaceful walking paths. They worry whether they will soon be losing their favourite doggie exercise arena to a stretch of new condos, some semi-detached structures, or maybe even a nursing home. The privately-owned but easily accessible slice of waterfront property tucked away in town feels like a public park to many of these Hudsonites.
“This is all speculation,” stated Liz Corker, Chairperson of our Town’s planning committee, when the query was put to her by phone.
“There was a meeting between the owners and the mayor, but that’s all it was. Nothing formal was presented.”
Corker, who often takes her Bernese Mountain dogs to Sandy Beach, stressed that Sandy Beach’s owners have every right to develop should they want to. “It’s private property after all.” Corker said the area is currently zoned for single family dwellings but Council will consider plans for an alternative, whether it be condos, semi-detached housing, or even a nursing home.
“But, it’s such a shame,” remarked Judy Dobbie one sunny morning last week. Dobbie is one of the dozens of dog-walkers who enjoys daily sojourns along Sandy Beach. “They’ll probably put up expensive and gaudy condos that no average aging Hudsonite can afford. Hudson is losing all its pockets of charm. And that’s why I live in Hudson! I need these nature walks to lift my spirits.”
Other dog-owners have echoed her sentiments. They wonder where they will go should both areas, Alstonvale and Sandy Beach, be developed. Behind Mount Pleasant? Down Maple?
Sylvia Nelham, real-estate agent at Remax Realties, doesn’t see any problem with lack of local recreational greenspace. “There are still many areas for dog-lovers to enjoy,” she countered. What Nelham does see is a definite need for alternative housing in Hudson to accommodate our aging population. “A development along the Hudson Club model would be a terrific idea for seniors. The problem with Hudson Club is that it is too far away from Town for seniors who want to be able to walk everywhere.” Nelham thinks Sandy Beach, with its lovely waterfront, might be just the location to build a good mix of affordable and/or prestige housing.
Jasmine Ellemo, agent at Sutton, agrees. “I can see a need for more facilities for the elderly. The Boomers are aging, you know.” Ellemo would not comment on the viability of such a facility at Sandy Beach, however.
When reached at home, Gordon Drewett, chair of the Town’s environment committee, did express reservations about building homes at Sandy Beach.
“It’s not the best place to develop,” he said. “I’d be very concerned with the water down there, the water going out, I mean. They’d have to be on their own system. One would hope the owners will think very seriously about this problem.”
Drewett chuckled over the idea of development happening any time soon at Sandy Beach. “Look at how long it has taken Alstonvale to get going – and it’s not a sure thing yet. There are still some T’s to be crossed and I’s to be dotted. “I would be amazed if two major developments like this got the go-ahead at once.”
Counselor Corker’s take was slightly more cautious. “I imagine that if plans were submitted for development at Sandy Beach while development was in progress at Alstonvale, Council and Hudson citizens would be less inclined to approve anything.”
Both Corker and Drewett agree that if any development were to happen, at either site, it would likely only be take place in stages, extending over years.
When asked to comment on the potentially adverse environmental effects of such widespread development, Corker reminded the Gazette that the owners of Sandy Beach and Alstonvale have to turn over 10 percent of the land to the town should they decide to develop. “This is greenspace for the Town. The developers have to give it up.”
“But, this is all speculation, anyway,” Corker repeated. “We’ll will have to wait and see.”
It seems the dog-lovers of Hudson might have earned a reprieve for the moment.