Meadowbrook Golf Course site tug of war
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
By Monique Beaudin, The Gazette
Groupe Pacific, which owns the west end site, is planning a 1,500-unit development for the part of the golf course in Lachine. Groupe Pacific, which owns the west end site, is planning a 1,500-unit development for the part of the golf course in Lachine. Groupe Pacific, which owns the west end site, is planning a 1,500-unit development for the part of the golf course in Lachine.
Gazette File Photo,
MONTREAL – The fight over the Meadowbrook Golf Course is back on.
At issue are two visions of sustainable development – a new green space in a part of the city where residents have little access to nature vs. housing in a new residential community with a small environmental footprint.
Groupe Pacific, which owns the west end site, is planning a 1,500-unit development for the part of the golf course in Lachine.
The company wants to build a sustainable community, with smaller homes and a stronger emphasis on public transit than conventional developments, said Groupe Pacific’s Suzanne Deschamps.
“We believe that we are trying to do the right thing both for the environment and the health of people and plants and biodiversity,” she told The Gazette yesterday.
People who have been trying for years to keep the golf course green fear this might be Montreal’s last chance to stop the site from being developed. Patrick Asch, of the environmental group Héritage Laurentien, describes it as a green space emergency.
“Development there is imminent,” he said yesterday.
For more than two decades, the fate of the golf course, which straddles Côte St. Luc and the Montreal borough of Lachine, has been up in the air. Canadian Pacific Railway bought the former farmland in 1917 to act as a buffer between its rail yards and nearby residential properties, and as a recreational space by its employees. It became a golf course in the 1930s.
In 2000, Côte St. Luc changed the zoning on its part of the golf course from residential to recreational. The golf course’s owner at the time launched a $20-million lawsuit against the city, but the case has been dormant since then. Deschamps said the company doesn’t plan to build on the Côte St. Luc side of the golf course.
The group Les Amis de Meadowbrook will today unveil its new action plan to preserve the site, which includes increasing pressure on municipal officials. Montreal has yet to act on a recommendation made by the agglomeration council last June, which said the city should take steps to preserve the 57-hectare site as a natural space.
City spokesman Bernard Larin said yesterday there have been no new developments since the agglomeration council’s recommendation last year. Montreal will have something to say about the golf course in the “coming months,” he said.
Deschamps said there have been no discussions with city officials about the agglomeration council’s recommendation. She dismissed the possibility of the company swapping the Meadowbrook site for land elsewhere, as some environmental groups have suggested, saying it has already spent millions of dollars working on its project.
Montreal has not approached the company about purchasing the site, she said.
“I think the city would very much like to see green space, and I think we offer maybe the best of both worlds,” Deschamps said.
Jo Ann Goldwater, of Les Amis de Meadowbrook, disputes the construction of housing on the golf course as environmentally-friendly.
“We’re not against environmentally-friendly developments, not at all,” she said. “We just question why you would destroy a beautiful green space for an environmentally-friendly development when there are (other) lands that could be reclaimed and have beautiful developments there.”
According to Asch, the golf course is a valuable green space for all Montrealers, especially those living in the densely-built southwestern part of the island. The health and economic benefits of protecting the site are great, he said. Natural spaces reduce pollution, offset heat-island effect and offer recreational opportunities to residents.
Meadowbrook still looks like the old farmland it once was, Asch said, with a pond that’s home to a native population of frogs. It is on the migratory path for birds and ducks and frogs spawn there. Vegetation is typical of what was found in the area 100 years ago, he said, including flowers, ferns and trees.
Over the next 8 to 10 years, Groupe Pacific plans to build a combination of townhouses and condominium in four-to-six storey buildings on the site, Deschamps said. The density of the development would be similar to that of the Plateau Mont Royal borough. Europeans live in smaller, more compact homes, Deschamps said, and the company hopes that the Meadowbrook development will be an example of that in North America.
Access to the site would be from Côte St. Luc along Côte St. Luc Rd. Deschamps said the emphasis would be less on car access than on access by public transit.
Groupe Pacific hopes to submit the plan to the city for approval this year, Deschamps said.
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In my opinion: I have spoken out in favour of preserving this magnificent greenspace for over 20 years. Look at the incredible vast parks that stretch across Toronto and Boston and so many other major North American cities that enrich the lives of local residents. The scores of thousands of people who live all around Meadowbrook, from Cote Saint-Luc, Hampstead, Montreal West, NDG, Ville St-Pierre and Lachine as well as LaSalle, Dorval and St. Laurent would benefit tremendously by having a recreational area within walking or cycling distance. Montreal should take immediate steps to stop any planned development.