Fight like dogs and cats

 

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An unidentified Hudson resident shot this pitbull some years back because the owner was allowing it to run free. Hudson’s apathetic voters need electo-shock therapy with issues they can care about, like Hudson’s leash laws.
One of Hudson’s mayoral candidates waylaid me this week, wondering how to get people fired up about the upcoming election campaign. (Nominations open and the campaign officially begins Sept. 22. Nominations close Oct. 6 and the campaign finishes with the election Sunday, Nov. 5; so far, there’s next to no interest.)

Uppermost in both our minds: 53% of Hudson’s eligible voters didn’t vote in the last election.

I have the answer: trees, dogs and cats.

Before I get around to explaining, it’s too bad Hudson’s pontificaters and bloviators can’t be bothered to inform themselves on what’s been happening at the Quebec National Assembly this year — and how those happenings relate to Hudson.

If they did, Hudson residents could look forward to a more sophisticated, better-informed election campaign where those seeking election will have to do better than the usual yawners about transparency and commitment.

Trouble is, there’s no easy way to make administrative issues interesting  despite the profound effect they’ll have on our community. I’ll begin with Bill 122, ‘an Act mainly to recognize that municipalities are local governments and to increase their autonomy and powers.’

Bill 122 was adopted June 15, but only after the Couillard Liberals agreed to an amendment doing away with obligatory referendums on zoning changes. The amendment gives municipalities the choice of whether to adopt a public consultation policy to replace the ‘subject to approval by referendum’ process. Hudson’s Prévost administration chose the public consultation route without explaining the change to residents.

Back in January, I posted Waiting for Bill 122 (WordPress, Jan. 16/17) following a lengthy interview with Hudson’s director-general Jean-Pierre Roy. He explained in general terms how Bill 122 would allow Hudson to take control of development. But because 122 was not yet law, Roy didn’t explain the political mechanism whereby the town would be able to move past zoning bylaws subject to approval by referendum.

Nor did the current council, presumably because they thought it better to let sleeping dogs lie. It wasn’t until a May 23 public consultation that Hudson residents realized that by adopting three concordance bylaws (688,689,690) the town was giving itself the powers vested in it by Bill 122 to pre-approve a number of development projects, including Sandy Beach, Willowbrook and a townhouse scheme on Como Gardens.

Those three concordance bylaws also enabled transport-oriented development in sewered sectors of town. Two other zoning bylaws (690,691) cleared the way for Wyman Memorial United Church to sell a parcel of land for residential development. (A sixth modification to the town’s master plan, Bylaw 685.2 which I don’t believe was adopted, would have established Greenwood Centre for Living History’s right to non-conforming use.)

When we were done adding the potential numbers, Hudson found itself looking at close to 1,000 new doors in a town without enough water in its reservoirs to fight two fires simultaneously, let alone meet a 30% shortfall during peak demand periods.

The current administration made little effort to explain any of this to residents. Under Bill 122, municipalities are no longer required to post public notices in local newspapers. Instead, they face tougher transparency requirements, including an obligation to post every public document on their municipal website. Not only has this council failed to explain due process; it persists in obfuscation.

Hudson’s development future? Ellerbeck’s 98-door Willowbrook project is on track to become the town’s first development to be approved without recourse to a register or referendum.

And, as they say in the telemarketing ads, that’s not all. If Hudson Valleys developer Daniel Rodrigue had waited for the town to adopt bylaws 688, 689 and 690 before seeking a zoning change for his Mayfair semi-detached project, contractors would be pouring foundations this fall. Instead, the project was rejected in a register because Rodrigue failed to convince residents the project was to their benefit.

It could well prove to be NIMBYism’s last stand in a community notorious for its hostility to new development.

Because Rodrigue’s 24-door townhouse development isn’t toast. Bill 122 allows a municipality to identify requalification zones in its planning policy, where redevelopment such as densification or urban renewal won’t require a rezoning bylaw subject to referendum.

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Because of Bill 122, Ellerbecks’ Willowbrook development will be Hudson’s first to be approved without recourse to a register or referendum. It won’t be the last.
Then there’s draft Bill 132, an Act respecting the conservation of wetlands and bodies of water. It’s called a draft bill because it’s currently before the NatAss Committee on Transportation and the Environment undergoing clause-by-clause consideration. It’s a political hot potato because it delegates decision-making on wetlands and eco-corridors to Quebec’s regional municipalities, or MRCs.

Hudson’s draft conservation plan is being rushed to completion despite persistent questions about wetland swaps approved by the environment ministry. What’s the rush? Sandy Beach? Como Gardens?  The enabling legislation hasn’t been adopted — and won’t be until sometime next year.

Other issues loom, like fallout from the 17.5% salary increase to the Sûreté du Québec’s 5,400 members. The formula under which the Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC is taxed for SQ policing is part of a Quebec-wide equalization scam. On average, Quebec municipalities pay 53% of the cost, Quebec the rest. But wealthy MRCs (we’re one) are assessed approximately 110%, with individual municipalities refunded half the excess. Quebec’s two municipal federations are fearful those rebates to their members will be slashed, possibly in excess of the 17.5% increase to cover the added cost to have-not MRCs.

Hudson, like most small municipalities where policing represents a sizeable chunk of their overhead, has come to depend on that rebate. But who’s going to get fired up over something they can’t change?

Now to the trees, cats and dogs.

Draft Bill 128, tabled in June, will dictate a province-wide law regarding dogs that bite people. Municipalities will have the power to adopt stricter regulations, but if they don’t the provincial law will prevail regardless of how Hudson’s dog lovers feel about it. Now, this is a hot-button issue in a town where many feel it’s unfair to leash their four-footed furry buddies, let alone muzzle them if they get rowdy with a neighbour’s toddler.

We’ve all seen horrific injuries inflicted by unmuzzled dogs, but like guns and climate change, we’re dealing with denial. Should Hudson ban specific breeds? Prosecute the owners of canine offenders? Aggressively enforce leash and poop laws?

While we’re at it, should people be allowed to trap cats trespassing on their property, eating songbirds and crapping in their garden?

…which brings me to trees. The new owners of a home on Ridge Road cut most of the trees surrounding the house to increase drainage on the perennially wet lot and to let some sun into their new abode. The neighbour, a house-proud couple for whom the illusion of country isolation was important, were outraged. Should the town consult with our neighbours before issuing tree-cutting permits? Now, there’s a fight worth having.

How about closing the town core to traffic on summer weekends? Or metered parking?

If it’s voter turnout we’re after, get people going. Forget the boring stuff, like governance and vision. Find those hot buttons and poke at them until Hudson’s sleeping dogs wake up.

 

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5 thoughts on “Fight like dogs and cats

  1. That is definitely not relegated to Hudson, very well articulated and so very refreshing. It actually borders on activism (Perish the thought) – the truth is that unless someone erects an oil derrick in their backyard, no one cares about climate change. Tell them there is a threat to their water table from a pipeline and they just give you a blank look, or worse quote you lost profits, because water obviously comes from the tap and really expensive processing plants, right? Democracy is such a fragile thing, with so many competing personal interests, and worse still a well rounded culture of disinterest which goes will beyond NIMBY. I wish you all luck.

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  2. Thank you, Jim, for trying to bring the major change that is Bill 122 to everyone’s attention. I only wish you had a larger audience.
    Two quick questions that you may be able to answer.
    1- Does the “Public Consultation” instead of “Approval by Referendum” policy change also apply to major loans such as the (not so) recent Pine Lake Dam loan bylaw?
    2- Once a municipal council has decided that their town will go with the “Public Consultation” model is it set in stone forever for future councils to follow or are there provisions to change back?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good questions.
      Only zoning bylaws as far as I know.
      From what I can gather, it’s case by case. If there’s enough of an uproar at the public consultation, can the mayor and council reconsider and put it to a referendum? I don’t know.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed. I too understand that since Bill 122, Council HAS THE CHOICE to offer either 1) the option of a referendum, or 2) a public presentation, before adopting any zoning change. It is also my sense that a loan by-law would need to go through the referendum process, that is not a choice (to be verified/confirmed please).

        The adoption process of any by-law, new or modified, can go as fast as 2 months from the time of Council declares/registers their intent at a Public Council Meeting. First, a ‘motion’ must be submitted and recorded, followed at the next meeting by the first draft of the by-law and at the next meeting its final adoption, verbatim or slightly modified. There was at least one attempt to shorten this period, I remember for example the time when a by-law was required to be passed by all municipalities by a certain date on what promises or assertions could not be made during the electoral period. I believe a Special/Emergency Council Meeting was called to expedite the process, reducing the process by a couple of weeks. Sometimes, a special meeting is called if a deadline needs to be met and the by-law was not ready to be submitted at a regular council sitting. I am not convinced that the first, the notice needs to be given on all points as this seems to take place sometimes and less clearly other times. Perhaps it is simply because it was submitted months, see even years before.

        In municipalities and regional county municipality (RCMs/MRCs) looking to keep the public’s input to a legal minimum, to expedite the process, the presentation and more detailed description of a by-law usually takes place right before the last step before its formal adoption.

        Why is that? Could ‘we’ do better? Could we do things differently while staying within the correctness of the law? Could Hudson do more than the minimum set by the law?

        Other municipalities have built their mandate, their ideology, their code of conduct, their mission on this very basis! Look at municipalities who have adopted the approach set forth by Agenda 21 like Baie St-Paul, and there are others who have borrowed from these principles and who are doing great things!

        An interesting document on Baie Saint-Paul’s Agenda 21 cultural and sustainable development application: http://www.agenda21culture.net/sites/default/files/files/good_practices/baiesaintpaul-eng_def.pdf

        Look at Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue also, opting to break the mold, to say ‘not so fast’ to promoters threatening to take them to court over a dis-favourable zoning change.
        I think it is time ‘we’ start supporting our elected to call the promoters’ bluff and stop folding to their threats, as this sets a poor precedent, hard to back away from the next time around.

        Lately, I have noticed that Hudson’s Council is making multiple submittals of potential by-laws coming up without any clear sign of why or when the first draft will be submitted for review, nor what their timeline is. This is confusing and makes it so that the next time the by-law is presented for first-draft, the window of time for people to inform themselves, to ask deeper questions, to have the intent better defined, improved or changed is by then cut in half.

        In not providing a description of the ‘why’, one is left to wonder what the full story is and why this by-law or resolution/formalized action is required in such an expedited manner.

        It all boils down to ‘what is the plan’,,,
        We are told THE only plan is the Strategic Plan and the rest just feeds into it.

        I’d like to know what the annual plan is to meet this grandiose fable and how each resolution leads to the lofty ideals set in the plan. I’d like to be invited to add and improve on the plan where my direct experience or expertise may come to benefit the greater collective good. A Strategic committee, sometimes amusingly renamed a Citizen’s Action Group, led by some more able or ready to bring results to the public table than others, is not enough. Where are the results? Congrats to the infra group for getting the conversation going, the awareness flow into the media and streets so that people may wrap their minds around these solutions. What about the rest of this great strategic plan? Where is it?

        What happened to the Advisory Committees that are already in place?
        Why are we duplicating these groups when there are already established committees looking to have a clearer mandate?

        Pine Lake remains for me the canary in the cave when looking to understand the capacity and choices made by this Council:

        What is the progress on Pine Lake? What has been done and what is the next step? Where is this dossier headed, how has this Council moved this dossier forward with diligence and effective use of resources?

        Why do I fall back on Pine Lake as an example?
        It epitomizes for me in the simplest terms what is wrong with our local leadership today.

        Do we really want to continue this way for another 4 years? and should Hudson continue to fall prey to the 4-year cycle chatter-silence-grumble-spit-chatter-silence-grumble-spit routine?

        How can we do politics differently in Hudson? … today and for generations to come?

        Lets stop this divisiveness, lets stop the scare tactics, the politics of scarcity, lets stop all of this nonsense and simply get back to speaking openly to each other and saying no to promoters and their sympathizers who wish to bend the mission of the people in Town to suit their own personal best vested interest. Lets get down to doing ‘doing’.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Chloe, I don’t think we should be saying no to anyone as a matter of policy. When I was a boy, people hunted on the ridge now home to Fairhaven residents, which is why we see the occasional rusty Bird Sanctuary sign around town.

    My point: why is it that so many newcomers to Hudson carry on about the need to raise the drawbridges and close the gates now that they’ve moved in? We’re all living on land that was once field or forest. You sound like Trevor Smith, with his cap on population that would make Hudson’s annexation an inevitability.

    Liked by 2 people

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