Many of the close to 80 who showed up at Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension’s borough council meeting, held last week at the Maison du Citoyen, were there for one thing. To confront their officials about the future of the Francon quarry.
“St-Michel already collects the snow for the whole city, and separates their trash,” said Magalie René who’s lived in St-Michel over 20 years, and the first citizen to speak during the question and answer period of the meeting. “We don’t want to be seen as even more of a dumping ground.”
The borough currently has its civil servants and their facilities spread out across its three neighbourhoods. René and several of those in attendance that evening are opposing a proposition to have all the area’s public works services regrouped in the Francon quarry located in St-Michel.
The property, which covers 20 per cent of the neighbourhood, is mainly used to store all the snow removed from the city’s streets and sidewalks. But 40 per cent of the space is currently available for use. For close to a century until the city purchased it in 1984, the quarry was used to extract stone.
Speaking directly to St-Michel’s newly elected councillor, Josué Corvil, René asked whether he thought this project was in line with the vision the residents have for their area. She said she is concerned the quarry will just add to the negative perception she claims the neighbourhood already has. “They say that it’s a poor neighborhood,” she said. “A trashy neighborhood full of gangsters. A neighbourhood where in the evening people are afraid to walk outside. Will this project really make people have a better impression of us?”
Corvil responded that the borough council will only vote on the location of the of the new public works facility once it receives recommendation from studies being done to ensure it will “greatly benefit both citizens and city workers.” But that it would be something positive to unite all the boroughs civil servants under the same rough.
“In St-Michel we are very worried about this project,” said Agnès Barthélémy project manager at Vivre Saint-Michel en santé.” “In particular the impact it will have on the health of the citizens.” According a document she presented to the council, storing all the borough’s heavy equipment in the quarry will add to the noise and visual pollution it claims the area already suffers from. It also claims the additional road activity in the area will contaminate the grounds of the quarry.
“We also fear for circulation in the neighbourhood” said Barthélémy when we spoke to her over the phone a few days later. “The area already has a lot of bike and pedestrian accidents. Are we really going to add all that activity?”
Over the past two years, her organisation has been proposing using the area for the development of an urban agriculture farm, a public market, green spaces, and social and community housing.
When reached for additional comments, Corvil reiterated that there are several locations currently being studied by “city planners, engineers, and a lot of other specialist who know what they are doing.”
“This is not a decisions we are going to take lightly,” said Corvil. “When you are an elected official you have to act as a good head of household and work in the best interest of the community. I know regrouping all public works services in the same area is a good idea. Now, where it should be, I have to wait for the studies to be released.”
According to the city’s Three-Year Capital Works Program, voted on last November, plans are already on the way to use part of the quarry for a new recycling plant to replace the current one, also located in St-Michel, where the Miron quarry used to be. This center would have the capacity to sort 100 000 tons of recyclables per year. A similar center in Lachine is set to open before the end of the year.
By: Sacha Obas – Freelance