The details, our soul is all in the details

Like Johnny Carson as Karnak, I’m holding the sealed envelope to my turban and looking into the future. I see:

I can’t shake the feeling that Hudson Council will simply table a rezoning of Sandy Beach exactly as per the developers Pine Beach proposal. This may even happen Monday night at March council.

Hudson should, in my opinion, but likely won’t charge the developer either a per connection or blanket contribution for the infrastructure of Hudson’s Brick Shithouse Sewage Treatment Plant. The explanation will be that we have the capacity and need the development, so the developer will benefit at the expense of Annex A ratepayers who won’t be consulted about the  future use of excess capacity that we have funded. If and when future developments, or Birch Hill for example require sewage treatment, the cost will be much higher. Nicanco, if they don’t pay a reasonable cost for sewage treatment infrastructure, will have a gift that drops right to their bottom line and limits the opportunity to better allocate those resources. Simply put, I believe that we should end the Pine Beach development with exactly the same excess capacity we had before it was developed and that until the whole town has sewage developers must replace what they will consume.

Same thing on water. Hudson doesn’t yet have a costed future plan for water capacity, so we’re not yet in a position to actually name a price for the water required by the 316 doors to be approved. Well or Lake? If we don’t know yet, how can we name a price that matches what we need to spend. If we agree to a deal for shared costs on water, we’ll simply have no idea if it’s a good one or not. Elsewhere on this blog the unlistened to have debated and logically concluded that we should should consider a lake supply around Thompson Park treated in a new plant just across Main Road and connected to our existing network. Solve both future capacity and West End water issues as well as offer water for sale to parts of Vaudreuil Dorion and St. Lazare.

The Pine Beach plan could be significantly improved for the protection of Sandy Beach while still allowing an exceptional development. For example wider buffers have been well proposed by competent citizens, but we’ll probably find that the community will have no leadership or will to stall the development by requesting such changes. We could hold to the original zoning numbers, but won’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a very pro-development person. We can’t buy Sandy Beach at market value, it will be developed. I have suggested many times over the years, to successive councils, that Hudson needs to develop Sandy Beach, Ellerbeck’s and R-55 as high priorities.

In spite of what the idealists and dreamers say or think, we have long passed the fiscal turning point  where we could survive without significant numbers of new taxable properties to help pay for the irrational excesses of decades of growth in bureaucracy and spending that has resulted in a tripling of our expenses over the past 15 years with stagnant population.

We have filled this swamp with debt and spending, we must have development soon. But if we rush we’ll do it badly and divide a community.

Development usually pits the wants of our citizens against the needs of a developer for profit. Both sides are wrong at first. A delicate balance must be struck between the idealists and the capitalists, and into the chasm separating the two is only Town Council or possibly a referendum.

We will see a new Council elected in November, and that Council will have to live with and resolve all of the good and the bad results from this Council. Hell, in some world it may even be the same Council, but I’m just not getting those vibes.

The responsible thing on Sandy Beach would to hold public consultations and have a committee including a balanced group of citizens to negotiate with the developer quickly towards a better compromise.  Instead, I think we’ll see weakness, a quick acquiescence and acceptance without demands for better and a simple decree that we need to do this without adequate reasons that we really need to do it.

I really want to be wrong about this. This is not simply a political or fiscal issue. It sits at the root of our community soul. I believe that this issue contains everything Hudson needs to either heal itself, or to finish destroying itself. In these beautiful wetlands we can find ourselves again as a cohesive community or finally finish losing ourselves.

You want proud, so do I.

I am the eternal optimist: I hope to one day soon walk from Jack Layton Park to Sandy Beach, proudly in close proximity to an exceptional new showcase development embraced by the majority of our community and welcoming those who have chosen Hudson’s best new development as a new place to live or a way to stay.

In life we find exceptional not by simple acceptance of average, by being demanding of excellence.

So, watch closely for what our leaders are demanding from the developer. If we demand nothing but simply accept what they’ve offered, we’ll get exactly the mediocrity proposed.

I believe we must, as a community, at least try to do better.

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14 thoughts on “The details, our soul is all in the details

  1. Yes good commentary Peter. I, however, don’t see a well balanced group of citizens negotiating with the developer. This is not buyer vs seller negotiations. MAYOR and COUNCIL should be negotiating on our behalf with recommendations from TPAC as whatever is decided will have repercussions also for future taxpayers.
    I think your idea of a water treatment plant across from Jack Layton Park is a good one but isn’t that where the town gave some farmers a 5 year lease to operate their business?

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    1. Fearful of sounding pushy into a town where I have no vote, yet not wanting to miss an opportunity to hand over an interesting tidbit heard from Concordia University. Department of Urban planning. Apparently the current trend that is considered good planning responds directly to the users needs as opposed to the opposite: plan and fit the user. into the plan.

      Planners are using terms like- the street that speaks……

      Concordia University aired urban planning program on that topic. . It’s part of a series called ‘thinking out loud’ . Might still be available.

      In light of this movement, we have to wonder how it will effect the future of the urban planning departments that are managed in the old fashion top-down style ?

      Not complicated .Just thought provoking.

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      1. The root difference is simply attitude, to my untrained eye:

        We required by law to have planners. There are two main functions we need to balance.

        To act as enforcers of norms and standards and resist or minimize change?

        Or

        Should we have a planning department constantly engaged with citizens empowered to present dynamic thinking and new visions of our future community within the realm of possibility that we can discuss and agree on?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Seems that best would be a balance of both attitudes: enforcer of norms…etc and engagement with citizens. Developers need clear guidelines before saddle up their horse to ride buckshot into a town, not after.
        Guidelines should represent the vision of the community, not the reverse.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Diane,

    My suggestion would be to have a public consultation as well as an open and balanced committee formed to include TPAC, Council and a good balance of citizen opinions to prepare a “balanced and workable” counter proposal that Council would use as a negotiating position with Nicanco. In no case should any citizens committee be empowered to negotiate such an agreement, but we should always have input for the range of citizen’s opinions.

    We need to consider asking for what we want and what we need to avoid rancor and a referendum rather than simply accepting exactly what what is proposed as a take it or leave it option.

    Your geography is correct, but you mistakenly refer to Thompson Park as Jack Layton Park. Yes, I’m speaking of a small water treatment facility opposite Thompson Park. Upstream from our own pure effluent output and to ensure that the West End finally gets watered.

    I do not know the extent of our land lease commitments to the Community Farm project but I suspect that the two would not be incompatible with each other if we have enough land. It’ll take a couple of years to design, approve and build a Lake supplied water supply. I believe we have a right of way from there as well to allow connection of this new supply to the main network.

    In any case, wherever it comes from we need water even without development. If we allow development, we’ll need much more water. Well have proven costly and unreliable long term while billions of gallons flow by each day in the river. Time to solve this problem or we can’t expand,

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ok Karnac – I have the same fear that the council may simply table a rezoning. It’s not on the agenda for Monday’s meeting, but that does not prevent if from appearing as last-minute addition.
    Yes, I agree this swamp is filled with debt and spending…. But development alone will not solve our problems and I fear if we have the wrong management it may just incur even more spending.
    You are pro-development, I am more cautious and feel this is not the place for it. I believe given the right support, the right negotiators, this beach, woods and wetlands could be saved.
    That being said, if this development is unstoppable, then a better deal needs to be made. I see and hear ideas from many sources on great suggestions to improve this plan. How do we get council to listen?
    So please tell me Karnac can you foresee how we can force public consultations and committees to form at better compromise? How do we force our leaders to demand better from the developer?
    I have joined the committees, gone to the meetings, signed and promoted petitions, written letters, asked the questions … and have not seen a budge in our impenetrable council. Topic closed – no room for discussion is the impression I get. We’ve been promised the opportunity for our say…. but will it ever come? Will it be in time to make a difference? I am asking your honestly, not sarcastically Peter, how do we get this council to open up on this? How do we stop the mediocrity – how do we do this as a community? I don’t hold the magic envelope.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Eva, thank you for your comments.

    There are a couple of ways this development can happen:

    If a zoning change is the path chosen, then the signing of the register and eventual referendum becomes our only choice. The deck is stacked against that if we’re all on different sides. When the Whitlock West changes to Birch Hill access were done the referendum was forced by a mere 8 signatures after super hero efforts from a well organized Birch Hill group AND repetitive critical columns from Jim and myself. SO it was a close call with strong efforts in the same direction. And then the town was wise to propose the changes rather than call the referendum, I’m not sure that would happen in this case.

    If the path chosen is a PPU, it bypasses all that inconvenient consultation and referendum process and will require heavy lobbying of our MNA to stop what is basically a dictatorial process.

    In either case, speed will be important, and group acceptance of a developer’s right to develop or having enough money on the table to purchase at market value will be critical. I don’t see us finding an angel investor, so we’ll need a strong and united position that allows development but seeks significant improvements to the plan being proposed.

    Recognize that the MMC and the MRC and the Quebec government are all pro-development. About 35% of any future tax revenues will flow to “downloads”.

    I won’t offer excuses, but some observations on our leaders and no solutions on our public. Thankfully we have some leaders because it’s a thankless and lonely place to be in a small community

    Councils past present and future are all well meaning citizens who try to see and do the best for Hudson. When there is little continuity, or continuity of only the weakest Councillors the results are less than optimal. Herding citizens into a common opinion can be difficult, and their primary responsibility becomes maintaining the reporting and management functions dictated by the government. The Prevost Council has had a huge task to correct the problems of the past from that side, they have created an inordinate number of their own legal problems and are now reactionary and defensive.

    Privately I call it stage 4 of almost every council. Stages match years of a term: Stage 1 is Optimism and Energy, Stage 2 is Reality, Stage 3 is Resignation to Failure and Stage 4 is Bunker Siege or Just Hang On till the end and let me get back to my life.

    Frankly a lot of those problems come from a lack of wide spectrum understanding by the general public. Lack of understanding of the reality of our finances, lack of understanding of the government process and lack of patience. But mostly a lack of an executable and realistic plan of action. Communication could mitigate a lot of this, I think future mayors need to be strong communicators who present all sides of a decision and explain our options and their choices better.

    We have wonderful idealistic passionate citizens in Hudson, many with deep professional knowledge and time. Herd them in a direction and we can accomplish great things together, get them fighting among each other and with council and we drag backward and stop quickly,

    We need communication, we need transparency and we need open discussion, but it must be rational and reasoned on all sides.

    Who will lead us for the next four years? Can they inspire and motivate while managing? Do they have or can they form a workable vision that suits a majority of ideally all, but minimally of those who care in Hudson?

    We have until November to hope that such a leader surfaces.

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  5. Starting on a side note, I love Karnac when Carson was around. That was the part of the show I would look forward to the most. Along with Jean Jean the dancing machine from The Gong Show.

    But back to reality. Peter you and I differ because I am neither for or against development. I access the projects as they come up.

    I have seen this developments fair share of stupidities, a series of alternative facts written in the letters section of our local journal either every first or second week. A petition that is baseless, that goes on the attack right of way.. and uses terms like “We Demand…” and then openly say that Hudson residents should be on the hook for the purchase. Ever seen the nuclear bomb footage detonate on bikini atoll? That image right here.

    Tell me, if you suddenly got 1100 signatures on land you owned, would you A) donate it to charity or B) increase the price of your gold nugget you now own– now that 1100 people have just declared they want someone other then themselves to write a cheque to buy the land? Everyone would choose option B.. and anyone who chooses option A, well I want your land. I saw dinosaur bones there yesterday.

    When I first started this self educational project on this land, much to help with Jamie Nichols, I had no clue about bylaw 408 and 409 Wich would be later repealed to bylaw 5XX. Development had already been set into law on this property. I got copies of the bylaws and read them over.

    But now, like I had thought, he wants to change his plans. This is where the town needs to light a firework under their butt. Like I previously said… You want something from us? WELL, we want something from you bucko.. this is the time for arbitration.

    This is where we need to figure out what we can get in return. This is where the deals need to be cut. This is where environment people like Eva Mcartney, her daughter, and other like minded nature enthusiasts need to be consulted. They know more about that then I ever will. This is where Jamie Nichols needs to be consulted. His historical sense of the land is a plus.

    The petitions need to end, the false statements the letter section of our local journal need to cease. That is like sitting in your car in the middle of the 40 with one foot on the brake and the other on the gas pedal. The road is already made, the direction is chosen, and fellow motorists are going around you.

    Pine beach is happening by Hook, crook or Dirty look. Peter is right. Too much resistance and he’ll run right to the MRC building and get them to impose a zoning change of which we will have zero say. ZERO.

    That is what I don’t want it to come to. We deserve to have a say, we deserve to have an input, and we deserve to have the developer make reasonable concessions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kevin, if zero development were possible for Hudson I would choose that option any day of any week. That ship sailed decades ago, and has been exacerbated by our growth in spending.

      Reality says we can’t survive with zero growth, so the end game of the future is to approve and the minimum growth that restores our ability to maintain ourselves and pay our bills. Sandy Beach is zoned, it’s approved and the MRC and MMC would LOVE to see it even denser than Nicanco’s current plan.

      We need to be flexible but we should aim very high on the quality and environmental standards of every new development without destroying the ability top attract builders or buyers.

      We have limited land and basically we seem to want the fewest developments, so they need to be the best possible developments that maintains our infrastructure and lifestyle.

      I am also all for some significant austerity in our spending, so that we need less development. Recreation, staff and legal expenses are budget items that come to the front of my mind as areas of massive spending growth over the last 15 years.

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  6. I agree that we should negotiate harder for what we want. Did you know that last year the city of Calgary approved a new off-site levy bylaw charging developers a fee to help with the cost of off-site infrastructure like water and wastewater treatment facilities, recreation centres, connecting pipes, major roads, intersections, traffic signals, bridges, fire halls, libraries, transit buses and police stations. With an accumulated debt of over $1.1 billon in water and wastewater infrastructure, it was no doubt time to do something and they certainly had the conviction, patience and leadership to accomplish something most probably thought was impossible!

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    1. Calgary, with Naheed Nenshi has a clear vision and plan for the future that people buy into. His instincts and connection to the thoughts of average people are great, his communication exceptionally clear and balanced. One in just over a million, we need to find one one in 5,000.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Very clear and precise on infrastructure and how the existing costly services we have built since 2009 in water and sewage should be costed out to developers and new areas wishing to hook up. Should Mr. Muhlegg or Mr. Ellerbeck , aside from paying their own pipe route to the Town’s treatment facility , have to buy a piece of the facilities ? This would be to pay for future facility expansion and ongoing depreciation of the existing structures and innards. I totally agree w/Peter on that score. I also think it should be in a special managed fund only for these purposes How much? No idea but you can bet some other municipality has done it before , somewhere, somehow. We always seem to be solving things in a bubble here. There’s a whole encyclopedia of prior other town experience out there. Our newly hired grant finder should do this as another part of their job description as it falls inside that task of getting us money, this time from would-be developers. We can’t afford “not my job” specialists in our little village. Great piece , Peter.

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