Hudson’s June council meeting was so weird, I was looking for Monty Python characters somewhere in the audience.
Pro-mayor Natalie Best, subbing for the mayor, opened the meeting by reading a comment from Prévost, slamming residents for circulating fake news and denouncing candidates for using public meetings to campaign for November’s municipal elections and dupe their fellow citizens.
The nearly three-hour session was highlighted by incoherent retractions of previous comments and resolutions modified on the fly. Among the revisions: a bylaw clearing the way for construction of Villa Wyman, an assisted-care seniors’ residence next to Wyman Memorial United Church, will now be subjected to a June 20 public consultation, possible registry and referendum. The controversial proposal to move Wyman and its parking lot into a commercial zone (C-27) will not, since it is now part of the town’s compliance bylaws.
The packed agenda was book-ended by question periods comprised mainly of rants against the adoption of bylaws 688, 689 and 690. These bring the town’s master development and land use plan into compliance with those of the Montreal Metropolitan Community (MMC) and the Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC. Critics charge the town with using them as the pretext to permit uncontested development.
The evening ended with the revelation that the absent Mayor Ed Prévost had bushwhacked his own council with a Trump-like blurt that raises serious questions about the legitimacy of his administration’s policy regarding densification of the town core. It also sparked a surreal exchange (“YOUR mayor! No, he’s YOUR mayor!”).
The issue: without consultation with this or previous town administrations, the MMC and MRC classified Hudson’s downtown core as a transport-oriented development, or TOD, on the basis of the single commuter train to and from Montreal on non-holiday weekday mornings and evenings and a shuttlebus service to Vaudreuil and West Island destinations.
Unlike previous administrations, this council has voiced no resistance to the imposition of the CMM/MRC guidelines despite the urging of residents who see it as a threat to Hudson’s small-town heritage. Council’s mantra: Compliance won’t change Hudson’s character.
The administration’s main argument in support of compliance: Hudson will have a stronger say in modifying or reversing CMM/MRC policy once it complies; until then, development projects are stalled. The sooner, the better.
The opposition sees a hidden agenda in the administration’s haste to pass the compliance bylaws: it allows the town to use the harmonized land-use and development regulations to ram through controversial projects. Over the past several weeks, council members and administrators have made comments since retracted or qualified, such as Hudson being the only MRC municipality not to have complied. (Five of the 11 MRC members in the CMM have not done so).
Delay supporters point to alternatives, such as moving the TOD circle east to a proposed intermodal passenger terminal located in the vicinity of where Como’s Montée Manson crosses the AMT right of way (ROW). Hudson would have its TOD and the possibility of a lateral access road to relieve Bellevue and Main Road of the traffic to and from the Oka ferry. Rail commuters living in St. Lazare and Vaudreuil-Dorion would have faster, easier access to a public transit facility with plenty of parking. More users would mean more trains.
Closure of the ROW would allow Hudson to plan and lobby for a non-motorized usage corridor and/or east-west road on the former ROW between Montée Manson and the centre of town. Either way, cyclists and pedestrians would have a safe alternative to having to share Hudson’s narrow streets.
The community centre was packed with a vocal crowd either for or against compliance, which commits the town to tripling the density of a one-kilometre semicircle around the railway station.
The sports-bar atmosphere was reinforced with the presence of two public security agents at the doors. The anti-compliance fans applauded whenever one of their stars scored on the council and walked out en masse when councillors voted to adopt the compliance bylaws.
Mayor Ed’s shocker came near the end of the second question period, when Charleswood resident Louise Craig asked when the town was proposing to close the railway station. Councillors clearly had no idea what she was referring to until she explained that the mayor was quoted in a June 1 Global News story on their Montreal morning show.
Billy Shields quotes Prévost saying that with a daily ridership of less than 50 people the town’s $250,000 bill is “preposterous.”
Shields’s story continues: “With the reformulation of the commuter rail agency into a new outfit dubbed the RTM [Réseau de transport métropolitain], Prevost said the town is thinking of closing its train station.”
Pro-mayor Best, who represents the town on the regional transit file, denied any knowledge of discussions to pull out of the RTM. (I can find no legal precedent for any CMM municipality pulling out of the RTM or its predecessor, the Agence métropolitaine de transport.)
I can think of three possibilities. One, Global misquoted Prévost and the mayor will demand a retraction. Two, Prévost doesn’t share with his council, which isn’t healthy. Three, the folks at the front of the room are excellent poker players and the conspiracy theorists were right when they saw the TOD as the pretext to densify.
Whatever, it sparked a lighthearted moment, or maybe it’s just me after too many evenings spent in consultations. Craig used the term “YOUR mayor” when referring to Prévost. “He’s YOUR mayor,” a council member shot back. Hmm. No love there.
Hudson has a new treasurer, Claudia Ouellette, a no-nonsense fiscalist who spent the past five years with a software provider for Quebec municipalities. Prior to that, she worked in finance departments in Côte St. Luc, Otterburn Park and elsewhere. Her aim is to get Hudson’s ledgers in order after a revolving door of treasurers.
Salaries to be made public
Town clerk Cassandra Comin Bergonzi reassured Eva McCartney the town will be releasing the salaries of non-unionized town employees as soon as possible. (Union wage scales are already public.) McCartney sharply questioned council in the wake of allegations the town was deliberately stalling their release. Comin Bergonzi blamed the volume of access to information requests for the delay.
Conservation plan tabled
The town’s conservation plan, an essential component of the land use compliance process, was tabled after getting the province’s approval. Residents were assured it will be posted on the town’s website, although the version currently posted dates back to last July. According to provincial regulation, it requires another public consultation and final adoption by council.
Another 60 grand
Hudson taxpayers peeled off another 60 grand for Dunton Rainville, the town’s legalists of choice. It sparked another who-are-we-suing-now query and assurances the town is down to maybe six, seven or eight files. But hey, who’s counting?
Wooing the Coast Guard
The Canadian Coast Guard wants to locate a high-speed search and rescue boat and shore facility somewhere on the Lake of Two Mountains, but has yet to make a final decision. The town says the Hudson Fire Department’s 21-foot rigid inflatable is too small to fill a patrol-boat mission and an expanded, rebuilt town wharf would be an ideal location for a larger craft. A number of other municipalities on the lake are in the competition, town director-general Jean-Pierre Roy said.