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.