City council: New rules would prevent construction near tracks, railway yards. (Montreal Gazette)

In brief:

  • Montreal has adopted new rules that would forbid the construction of new buildings within 30 metres of busy train tracks and 300 metres of a railway yard.
  • The new rules would also outline steps that could be taken to improve safety and reduce nuisances like noise and vibrations from rail operations, such as installing safety fences, berms and noise barriers.
  • Montreal city council voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt the new guidelines, drawn up by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Railway Association of Canada. They would be included in Montreal’s new urban plan, which must be adopted by the end of 2014.
  • Montreal’s agglomeration council is also expected to approve them Thursday, extending them across the island of Montreal.
  • Côte-St-Luc city councillor Dida Berku has been calling for more than 20 years for municipalities to adopt railway setback guidelines for development and said she was “elated” when Montreal city council adopted them.
  • The new guidelines could mean the controversial development of the west-end Meadowbrook golf course would not be allowed to proceed. The golf course, which is in Lachine and Côte-St-Luc, has a train yard on its north and west side, with train tracks running east-west through the golf course itself. Several housing developments have been proposed for the site over the past 25 years. Montreal has said building municipal infrastructure for the site is too costly.

This is excellent news.  I have supported this theory in order to safeguard residents living near rail lines and yards for 20 years and I’ve echoed Dida Berku’s call to protect Meadowbrook, in large part, because of this potential danger.

It is sad that this position by the City of Montreal had to follow such a horrible tragedy but Lac Megantic has served as a wake up call for municipalities across Canada.

Cote Saint-Luc has been very progressive in assuring Meadowbrook’s future as a green space. This resolution, soon to be presented to the Montreal Agglomeration Council will give greater assurance on its ultimate preservation.