LETTER TO PROF. RENÉ DOUCET MINISTERS HEURTEL AND COITEUX
JANUARY 20, 2017 ADMINISTRATOR LEAVE A COMMENT
The Village of North Hatley and the Memphremagog MRC Management Plan.
I am a resident of North Hatley since 2001. I chose this village to retire after 32 years learning the HEC Montreal and 10 years of practicing labor law and industrial relations in Quebec and Ontario.
The Village of North Hatley is appreciated for the harmony of its design on the edge of beautiful Lake Massawippi and its tributaries spectacular scenery of the surrounding mountains. It was designated as one of the most beautiful villages of Quebec. This village is also appealing because of the kindness of its people and the tranquility of his lifestyle.
In addition, the renowned gastronomy of its hotels, including the Manoir Hovey, its inns and restaurants make this village a destination sought after by tourists. That is why I have established with my wife a modest house that receives each year hundreds of couples from both America than in Europe. All confirm my appreciation of this village and many of them come back to us year after year.
You have recently received the MRC Memphremagog a management plan aimed to allow the realization of a project collossal in a small area in the center of the Village of North Hatley, along the Massawippi River. Massawippi River, despite its narrowness, is the only outlet of Lake Massawippi, one of the deepest lakes in Quebec.
Of note, the territory chosen by the promoter of this project under the Management Plan is located largely in the flood zone. A significant portion of the flood area in a large current (see Figure 2 on page 8 of the Management Plan).
From 1984 to 2015, the area was hit by thirteen (13) episodes of flooding, many of which were long-term (see Table 1 on page 9 of the Management Plan).
And according Ouranos research organization retained by the Quebec government, rainfall in southern Quebec are expected to increase in winter by 20% by 2055. It is therefore expected that flooding in the area covered by the project and the management plan will be more numerous and stronger in the future.
The presented by the developer development project to the council of the Municipality of North Hatley Village in 2013 encroaches significantly in the flood zone of great current (see Table 4 and Figure 12 on pages 26 and 27 of the Management Plan).
Unless the works included in this project are not eligible for a derogation under Article 4.2.2 of the shoreline protection policy, coastal areas and flood plains, these works should be prohibited under Article 4.2 of the Policy.
The management plan acceptable to make the waiver application must meet the five criteria set out in Schedule 2 of the shoreline protection policy, coastal areas and floodplains.
Here are my remarks on the evaluation of the application criteria:
1-The safety of people and the protection of property and the natural flow of water.
The exemption request is building a set of multifamily, mixed or trademarks of important dimension. Two of the houses included in R1 and M1 sectors will have 4 floors high and will contain 50 to 90 units each. The third in the M2 sector will have 5 floors and contain 50 to 90 units. In the C1 area, a new commercial building with 3 floors will also be built. (See Map pages 22 and 23). The underground parking will be allowed. The occupation on the ground can reach 50% of each of the three sectors, including a significant portion in the high current area (see Tables 3 and 4 on pages 25 and 26 of the Management Plan.)
With a possibility of over 200 units of housing and shops, this project is more like an urban development that villagers. If completed, it will create an urban center in a small village. With the consequences that can be expected on the traffic in the center of the village and the need for new municipal services.
The most dramatic consequences will be those suffered by the immediate vicinity. Not only during construction, which probably will take several months, but once completed construction during the next flood. For buildings with large dimensions, with immune garages, will form major obstacles to the natural flow of water.
Encroachment of these buildings in flood zones will be major: equivalent to 56% of landfills in the area of great current and 48% in the area of low current (page 28 of the Management Plan).
It is reasonable to imagine that the water pumped from both sides by the walls of many buildings will move towards the lowlands of immediate vicinity. And that the implantation footprint of new buildings decrease the terrain absorption capacity. Which could affect the duration of flooding.
The Village of North Hatley has made a commendable effort in 2016 by accepting the proposal of its consulting engineer Olivier St-Amour to increase the rates by 20% in relation to those contained in the 2013 study for flood recurrence 2 years, 20 years and 100 years (see study EXP 2016-02-15 page 3). As a result of this change, an increase of 32 cm will be applied for trading 100 years for immunization of new buildings and extensions located in the flood zone.
But it will be there enough to protect the safety of people and property?
Does it happen in the immediate vicinity? A dozen private homes and shops have long been established on the neighboring land. They will suffer the negative consequences of blocking the natural flow of water?
If they have to immunization or other work, which will compensate?
What will it to residents and traders of some 210 newly built units during major floods? Can they evacuate their homes and save their goods on time?
Reading the terms and obligations of the municipality related to the management plan, pages 29 to 33 of the Plan, we learn a lot about the major risks and questions that includes the management plan. For example, the need for exceptional emergency measures, nuisance from construction activities, sanitary water pumping capacity, immunization measures for existing buildings, limiting heat islands, management stormwater management of pumping water, security measures in connection with underground parking, etc. (See pages 29-33 of the Plan).
Note: As for safety in underground parking lots and access to different homes and businesses, the undersigned would like to learn more about the crystal ball that will allow an engineer to rule in case of major flood (recurrence 250 years) the water level in parking lots and pedestrian access will remain below 25 cm for at least an hour, even in case of failure of the pumping systems.
2-Economic issues and the timeliness of the project covered by the Management Plan
The municipality based its decision to support the project covered by the Management Plan on sociological and economic considerations: decrease and aging population, decreased property values and tax revenues, rising property taxes and debt of municipality, limited potential for the future.
The undersigned does not contradict the findings described on pages 5 and 6 of the Management Plan. However, it states that there may be reasonable alternatives to risky project as framed by the Management Plan. To know :
When in 2013 the City Council agreed in principle to the project board members probably did not know the terms of this project would include such risks to the safety of persons and property, as well as the flow natural water in a major flood. The MRC Management Plan as presented allows us to realize the seriousness of the risks associated with the project under study. What I think creates for the board a major dilemma. One solution to this dilemma may consist of obtaining the proponent the changes necessary to fully ensure the safety of people and property and the natural flow of water in case of flooding. Or a subsequent amendment of the Management Plan.
The Management Plan page 5 mentions the lack of vacant land in the territory of North Hatley to achieve a major development project. The undersigned strongly doubt this assertion. For example, when in 2006 the Auberge Hatley (an institution of fine dining in Quebec) was destroyed by fire, the owners decided not to rebuild and put the land up for sale. The site of this land was a great development opportunity for the future. Unfortunately, developers have missed. Other places are also available in the territory of the municipality. Who seeks finds.
The economic conditions of the municipality are difficult, for several reasons. Some are historical, others institutional. Just a few years a professor at HEC Montreal did a study of municipal taxation and found that municipalities with fewer than 1000 inhabitants imposed a higher tax burden than other municipalities. The size of the tax base account. The solution to this problem is the widening of the tax base. A municipality may achieve this alternative is merging with other municipalities or by sharing the costs of services with several other municipalities. These are channels for political solutions that the Village of North Hatley could consider.
The undersigned is in favor of sustainable development and research of promising solutions for both the future economic, social and ecological Village of North Hatley.
It also recognizes that investors, including real estate developers can contribute greatly to such development and such a future.
But knowing enough the world of financial, he knows that some of them, not all thankfully tend to favor the search for maximum short-term profit at the expense of social, long-term economic and environmental.
So it is up to elected officials at all levels of government, to ensure that these considerations are taken into account in their decisions. Which means in this case, the elimination of major risks associated with the project in a flood zone such that frames the study under Management Plan. In short, the management plan should be modified to eliminate major risks.
And I would add that, in the case of the Village of North Hatley, special attention should be paid to the search for an architectural style that blends with the style of the houses of the Village of North Hatley. Because one of the most beautiful villages of Quebec can not afford too much error style.
Please accept, Ministers, the expression of my highest consideration.
Honorary Professor HEC Montreal
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The opinions expressed on this website are those of their authors. Space on the website is provided as a service to the community and FANHCA, its administrators and host cannot be held responsible for any of the opinions expressed thereon.