Legal procedures in Pierrefonds West, road allegedly built on wetlands
By: John Symon – mtltimes.ca
Local environmentalists are suing Montreal, the borough of Pierrefonds-Roxboro, and the Quebec Ministry of Transport (MTQ) over a road built in Pierrefonds West. Legal action was initiated on November by a non-profit group, Sauvons l’Anse à l’Orme and other plaintiffs against the above-mentioned government bodies. Allegedly, a road was built–without proper permits or hearings–on wetlands in Pierrefonds West.
“This road, the service road (for an eventual extension) of Highway 440, has been built on wetland over a distance of perhaps 1 kilometre. All this was done without the required BAPE (environmental) hearings. Municipalities are supposedly stewards of the environment, but they have bypassed their responsibilities here,” said lawyer Ricardo Hrtschan who represents plaintiff Project generations, Legacy Project.
Speaking with Hrtschan, were Don Hobus, a well-known environmentalist, and Stephanie Hewson, a McGill law student also working with Project generations, Legacy Project.
The supposed infraction dates back to 2003. The case filed with the Quebec Superior Court attempts to have the municipality and MTQ evicted from the wetland and have the road rehabilitated to its natural state at their expense.
The road is presumably destined to serve a proposed residential development of up to 6,000 new homes on a an adjacent 185-hectare parcel in Pierrefonds West as announced by Montreal mayor Denis Coderre in June. That development is also on wetlands and part of it is on agricultural land according to environmentalists. A separate legal challenge demands that the agricultural land be removed from the proposed development.
“It is quick and easy to build on green space; brown fields (abandoned industrial lands) need to be rehabilitated instead,” said Hrtschan. “It costs a little bit more to build on brown fields, but there is consequently less maintenance. Angus Yards is an example; it is now a beautiful living space accessible to public transit and bike paths.”
“Few people living in Pierrefonds West would ride bicycles 35km to downtown. It would also cost billions to build a commuter train or metro to there. So, perhaps 10,000 new residents would drive cars downtown, adding to congestion on our roads. Montreal already has some of the worst traffic jams around,” added Hrtschan.
“Quebec has some of the best environmental laws in the world; if only we could respect them,” lamented Hewson.
The Times reached out to Pierrefonds-Roxboro Mayor Jim Beiss for his comments on this lawsuit, but we did not hear back by press time. It can be delicate to discuss matters that are before the courts, but we still hoped for some general comment.
Similarly, we reached out to Russell Copeman, the Montreal Executive Committee Member Responsible for Housing, Urban Planning, etc. Copeman stated on October 26 that the Pierrefonds West area has no rare or endangered species to the best of his knowledge. This week, The Times forwarded him a list of five rare or endangered species (see list below) that live on the 185 hectares according to The Green Coalition. We did not hear back from Copeman either.
That list of rare or endangered species includes 2 birds (Barn Swallows, Bobolinks), 2 reptiles (Brown Snake, Northern Map Turtle) and 1 plant (Canadian Black Snakeroot).