Cavendish extension, back in the spotlight, garners mixed reviews from Côte Saint-Luc residents – Global News

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By Billy Shields Photojournalist  Global News  May 29, 2019

WATCH: There is renewed optimism that the long-awaited Cavendish Boulevard extension will finally move forward. As Global’s Billy Shields reports, the new hope is due to the controversial Royalmount development.

A recent report published by a committee studying the Royalmount development has recommended the extension of Cavendish Boulevard as well as the construction of a dedicated bus lane.

An extension to Cavendish Boulevard that would connect Côte Saint-Luc to the Montreal borough of Saint-Laurent has been discussed for more than 50 years. Côte Saint-Luc residents are divided over the idea, which some point out may never happen.

“It’s just a lot of talk,” Phyllis Orloff, a woman who lives along Cavendish Boulevard, said on Wednesday. “It’s never really happened.”

Others, however, point out that the road would be a welcome artery through a city with few ways in and out. Others worry about the influx of traffic an extension might bring.

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Officials have studied the extension formally on half a dozen occasions — in 1981, 1988, 1992, 1995, 1996 and 2000 — but it has never materialized.

Two freight railways — Canadian Pacific and Canadian National — own tracks that the extension would have to cross, and for a long time, neighbouring jurisdictions weren’t on board, according to Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein.

With the massive Royalmount project on the horizon, other jurisdictions are calling for the extension.

“They’re doing it not because of Côte Saint-Luc, they’re doing it because the cars need to go somewhere, and they can’t use Decarie (Boulevard),” Brownstein said.

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Negotiations with the railroads are slated to continue for another year and a half. Brownstein said the road could be finished by 2027.

READ MORE: Cavendish Boulevard extension faces deadline

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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No way out: Recent gas leak highlights Côte Saint-Luc’s need for Cavendish Extension

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‘We definitely need another route out,’ says Mayor Mitchell Brownstein as negotiations continue

The Sept. 6 gas leak in Côte Saint-Luc caused major gridlock throughout Montreal’s west end, making it a struggle to get in and out for motorists and emergency crews alike.(Navneet Pall)

Côte Saint-Luc resident Michael Litvack woke on Sept. 6 to discover his bedside clock had stopped working at around 8:15 a.m.

It quickly became apparent he was among the more than 10,000 Hydro-Québec customers in Montreal’s west end without power after authorities shut it off due to a gas leak near the intersection of Kildare Road and Cavendish Boulevard.

As a crew repaired the broken gas pipe and nearby residences were evacuated, the Cavendish Boulevard underpass — one of just two ways out of Côte Saint-Luc — was only accessible by side streets.

The main part of Côte Saint-Luc is surrounded by train tracks and a rail yard, making the underpasses on Cavendish and Westminster Avenue the only two routes out of a suburban municipality of more than 30,000 people.

Côte Saint-Luc’s roads are generally quiet but, with one underpass partially blocked, the gas leak ignited a traffic nightmare. Gridlock around both underpasses lasted for several hours despite the Montreal fire department’s request that motorists avoid the area.

“People in my part of Côte Saint-Luc were stuck,” said Litvack, who struggled to get a blood test that day. “Businesses had to close. Schools had to close. Doctors appointments had to be rescheduled.”

Côte Saint-Luc’s Cavendish Boulevard underpass is regularly busy with motorists, trucks, buses and pedestrians as it is one of the only ways out of the city. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

It served as a stark reminder of how Côte Saint-Luc’s design leaves it vulnerable, he said.

The municipality has seen big changes in the last decade as new homes and residential buildings are added every year. Several large-scale, multi-storey apartment complexes are currently under construction and there is talk of more on the way.

“It’s going to get worse,” Litvak said. “As the cars increase and the people increase, the problems will increase.”

The Westminster Avenue underpass is one of Côte Saint-Luc’s two access points. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

There are four emergency gates that allow vehicles to drive over train tracks, but opening them requires coordination with the train companies.

The best solution, most say, would be a third exit to the north, heading to Montreal’s Saint-Laurent borough and the Town of Mount Royal, but the so-called Cavendish Extension has been firmly anchored in the discussion phase for some five decades — those discussions were delayed two more years earlier this week.

Mayor says Cavendish Extension is in the works

After the gas leak, Mayor Mitchell Brownstein has been reminding residents that he is working hard on bringing the Cavendish Extension to life.

“We definitely need another route out,” he told CBC News.

It is no longer a question of if, it is a question of when, said Brownstein, noting he’s made it a top priority since assuming office in 2016.

The project has been in Montreal’s capital work budget since 2015 with a completion date originally set for 2020. Currently, Montreal has $13 million earmarked for the cause and money is set aside at the provincial level as well.

While Canadian Pacific (CP) is asking for a costly tunnel under the entire rail yard, Brownstein said he, along with the other levels of government, is pushing for two underpasses under the two separate tracks just north of Cavendish Boulevard.

Rather than being an alternate to the nearby Decarie Expressway, it would be a quieter, ground-level roadway that, fitting with the neighbourhood’s character, connects Côte Saint-Luc to Mount Royal’s Royalmount Avenue and St-Laurent’s section of Cavendish Boulevard.

The indirect route would follow a to-be-built, fenced-in road through the rail yard and a small portion of private land owned by the property developer, Olymbec.

The properties owned by Olymbec are in the starred area. (Google Maps)

Montreal reserved that undeveloped land for expropriation and, on Thursday, the agglomeration council extended the reserve for another two years, to buy time for Montreal to continue its negotiations with CP.

The future of the Cavendish Extension hinges on those negotiations — negotiations that have been ongoing for a number of years.

“We just need to keep pushing to get the proper road built that isn’t a highway, but allows us a way out of our city,” said Brownstein. The renewed two-year extension on the reserved land, he added, means “everybody is on a timeline.”

A stretch of Cavendish Boulevard in Côte Saint-Luc was closed due to a Sept. 6 gas leak that created a traffic jam so bad that Montreal’s fire department struggled to access the site. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

However, Montreal also extended negotiations by another two years Tuesday and MNA David Birnbaum described that decision as “disappointing” because it green lights further delays.

“We have always said and continue to say, we will be absolutely and fundamentally involved in the development of the Cavendish Extension,” he said, describing it as not only important for the safety of residents, but also for the economy.

He said he’s called meetings between all the players involved to accelerate the process and the province has been offering support.

“We’re all ready to be a major part of this project and it’s time for it to move forward.”

For that to happen, he concluded, Montreal needs to complete negotiations with CP.

CBC reached out to CP for comment, but didn’t hear back in time for publication.

To help push the project forward, Côte Saint-Luc Coun. David Tordjman is encouraging residents to raise their own voices to the cause as, he said, the gas leak brought safety to the forefront of the discussion.

With Quebec’s general election heating up and Canada’s election just around the corner, he said, “We need more firm action from all levels of government.”

Cavendish Boulevard extension may be a pipe dream

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Global News reports that the Cavendish extension dream may fade completely in 2 years from now. After endless discussion, pronouncements and media opportunities over the last 50 years we may be down to the wire on whether this project will come to fruition.

Montreal city council passed a motion last Tuesday to extend the negotiation deadline with CN and CP Rail by two years, according to Global News.

This means city officials have 24 months to reach a deal with the rail companies to allow for the extension of the boulevard over their tracks — but no more extensions will be granted after that period.

So what’s the problem?

Cote Saint-Luc has wanted to see this plan come about since the late 1990s. It was a major promise in the merger debacle of the early 2000s. The former City of Saint-Laurent and current Borough of the same name (and same mayor) is also in favour. Local Members of the National Assembly have been on board for years as has the Member of Parliament, notably Anthony Housefather is his capacities of Borough Councillor, CSL Mayor and MP for Mount-Royal.

But Montreal and the province have been mired in construction gridlock across the Island. Resources have been prioritized elsewhere and municipal, provincial and federal funding has been allocated for years to come. Turcot will be a mess for several more years. The REM project will keep us tied up for the next 5 years too. And those are just some of the biggies.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante is no friend to motorists! And the upcoming Quebec election dust will have to settle for us to know what new priorities lie ahead.

This will not be an easy time for Mayors Brownstein and de Sousa who must get the necessary major players around the table to make things happen. The project cannot advance without the next Quebec premier and the Mayor of Montreal giving the nod of approval.

Time may be running out on this critical infrastructure plan and 50 years of dreaming may go up in smoke without concrete action, and fast.

 

Global News:  Cavendish Boulevard extension faces deadline

For more information on the history of the Cavendish extension , search this blog.

Battle heats up in Côte Saint-Luc

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The race is heating up in Côte Saint-Luc with clashing personalities battling it out for mayor.

Incumbent Mitchell Brownstein is seeking a second term.

He’s being challenged by former mayor Robert Libman who is trying to get his old job back.

 

WATCH: The former mayor of Côte Saint-Luc has decided to run for re-election, but as Global’s Tim Sargeant reports, Robert Libman is a registered lobbyist. This has incumbent Mayor Mitchell Brownstein questioning his rival’s true interests.

Global News Report

Côte Saint-Luc mayoral candidate’s vow to extend Cavendish raises possible ethical concerns

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Robert Libman plays down lobbying work for Olymbec, company that stands to profit from proposed link

By Sarah Leavitt, CBC News Posted: Oct 05, 2017 7:30 PM ET

Robert Libman was mayor of Côte Saint-Luc between 1998 and 2005 and is now in the race to win back that post.

Robert Libman was mayor of Côte Saint-Luc between 1998 and 2005 and is now in the race to win back that post. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

 

 

As a mayoral candidate for Côte Saint-Luc, Robert Libman is promising to “champion the Cavendish extension,” but as a registered lobbyist, he is also representing a real estate company with land in the area of the proposed link.

That may place him in a conflict of interest if he wins the election, according to one expert, who suggests Libman could be forced to recuse himself from decisions involving the long-planned extension of Cavendish Boulevard.

Libman is an architect and an urban planner.

According to Quebec’s Order of Architects, any architect who solicits governments, for instance, seeking building permits or zoning changes, must register as a lobbyist.

Libman denies his relationship with the real estate company, Olymbec, places him in a potential conflict of interest.

Incumbent mayor Mitchell Brownstein has sought to draw the media’s attention to those ties.

Olymbec owns two plots of land on the corner of Dalton Road and Cavendish Boulevard  north of the railyard that cuts the boulevard in two.

Filings with the Quebec Registry of Lobbyists indicate Libman stands to be paid less than $10,000 to lobby municipal officials for building permits allowing Olymbec to build on the land.

Olymbec plots on reserve

In June 2016, the City of Montreal put the two vacant lots, which cover nearly 17,000 square metres, on reserve, to prevent Olymbec from developing or expanding the properties while plans to extend Cavendish Boulevard are worked out.

In October 2016, the city’s executive committee approved a resolution to negotiate with Olymbec to buy one of the lots.

“It’s not even a conflict,” Libman told CBC News. “The City of Montreal reserved land in the corridor where the Cavendish extension is going to go.”

“The fact that Olymbec happens to own the land next to it, it doesn’t make a difference. I’ve pushed for the Cavendish extension since 2002. Nothing has changed there.”

Olymbec land

The land owned by Olymbec is within the area highlighted in red, an area which will be impacted by the Cavendish extension. (Google Maps)

Michel Nadeau, the executive director of HEC and Concordia University’s Institute for Governance and Public Policy, points to the Elections and Referendums Act for regulations concerning conflicts of interest.

Section 361 reads:

Every member of the council of a municipality who is present at a sitting when a matter in which he has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest is taken up for consideration shall disclose the general nature of his interest before discussions on the matter are begun and abstain from participating in the discussions and from voting or attempting to influence the vote on that matter.

Nadeau says those rules apply within the municipality to which the official belongs, but they also apply to interests involving other municipalities.

Public governance expert Michel Nadeau says for a candidate to be fully transparent, voters must be made aware of lobbying that candidate has done for any organization.

“As a mayor, you should work full-time for the voters or the citizens of your city. To vote, to take the interest of the citizens, this interest could be in conflict with the neighbouring cities,” Nadeau said.

“You should not have any financial, legal or contractual commitments with the neighbouring cities because of business activities.”

Libman says he is aware of the rules and has been in touch with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to go over issues of conflict of interest.

“If there’s ever an issue that might be perceived as a conflict, there are rules that govern conflict of interest, and I would recuse myself in any such case.”

Lobbying ‘miniscule part of my work,’ Libman says

However, Libman downplayed his lobbying work.

“I don’t lobby at all,” he said, before adding: “That’s a minuscule part of my work.”

“I’m an architect. Because I meet with cities, because I make a request for zoning changes or building permits, I have to be on the lobbyist register, like other architects are.”

But lobbying records show that Libman has six active lobbying mandates from Olymbec, including for the properties on Cavendish.

In five of those mandates, Libman was paid less than $10,000 in each instance.

Among those is a mandate in which he was to be paid less than $10,000 to lobby Côte Saint-Luc to place rental signs in a vacant property on Westminster Street.

In the sixth mandate, Libman is to be paid between $10,000 and $50,000 for lobbying on behalf of Olymbec’s interests in a massive redevelopment project in Montreal North.

Olymbec is owned by Derek and Richard Stern. Derek Stern helped organize Libman’s 2014-2015 campaign for the Conservative nomination in the federal riding of Mount Royal.

He won the nomination but lost the 2015 election to Liberal Anthony Housefather.

Robert Libman promises

In his list of campaign promises, Libman says he’ll work to ‘ensure the completion of the Cavendish extension,’ despite what could be a conflict of interest. (Robert Libman)

Transparency concerns

Libman, who was mayor of Côte Saint-Luc between 1998 and 2005, says he signed on to the lobbyist register in 2010 with the goal of full transparency.

Much of his work as a lobbyist involves approaching different cities and boroughs in attempts to change zoning designations, to seek permission for development or demolition or to request bylaw changes.

There are no laws directed specifically at lobbyists running as candidates for elected office, but Nadeau said it’s important they be fully transparent about their work.

“The electors should know this candidate is a lobbyist for any organization,” said Nadeau.

Libman does not mention his work as a lobbyist on his campaign website.

With files from Jonathan Montpetit

News video at 5:45

CSL candidates go at it on Global

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Côte St. Luc mayoral candidates Mitchell Brownstein and Robert Libman debated the issues last Thursday on Global TV’s Focus Montreal, hosted by Jamie Orchard.

Libman praised Côte St. Luc as an “incredible municipality.

“But I don’t believe we’ve achieved our full potential, we can do a lot better with the right leadership,” he added.

 Brownstein said that since he became mayor a year and a half ago, “I negotiated a deal with the City of Montreal whereby Côte St. Luc will be paying $4.8 million less for essential [island-wide agglomeration] services, reduced our debt by $4 million and we’re running a surplus of $1.9 million in 2016. I settled collective agreements with our three unions.”

The debate dealt with the most prominent issue in Côte St. Luc for the past 50 years — the long-awaited Cavendish Blvd. link with St. Laurent. Libman said he ended the longstanding impasse prompted by former Mayor Bernard Lang’s opposition.

“In 2000, I developed a consensus that I proposed to the Quebec Transport Ministry and the municipalities in the surrounding area were in agreement with us,” he said. “The City of Montreal created a project bureau with a $5 million budget at the time, public studies and environmental tests were prepared and ready to go for the extension to be completed in 2010, and 15 years later, it’s still not there. We need someone with an urban planning and architectural background that I have to really push this file forward.”

Brownstein said the ceding of the Hippodrome land from Quebec to Montreal last June for a housing development has a condition that the Cavendish extension “must go forward.

“It didn’t happen by itself. As soon as I was elected, I made a commitment I would push Cavendish forward, and I met with Montreal executive committee chairman Pierre Desrochers. We had a meeting with our MNA David Birnbaum, four ministers came, and all the five mayors — everyone was committed to moving it forward. I met with CP and CN for the first time together in my office. The result was that Minister Carlos Leitao announced with Mayor Denis Coderre that there will be an extension…”

“That was the biggest non-announcement,” Libman began, before both spoke over each other.

“If Robert [was going to] to move it forward, he would have been able to do it when he was on the Montreal [megacity] executive committee, but now he can’t do it at all,” Brownstein countered.

‘That’s when we announced it,” Libman responded. “The file was going to go ahead, and 15 years later it’s still sitting on the backburner.”

Brownstein then said Libman is a lobbyist for the development company Olymbec, “and there is a reserve on a piece of land owned by Olymbec that is required for the Cavendish extension. He will have to recuse himself from the whole debate!”

“This is so typical of this whole campaign,” Libman said. “All of the allegations, ridiculous comments…”

Orchard asked if the Olymbec land is under reserve, and if it is required for the extension.

“A piece of land owned by Olymbec has been reserved by the City of Montreal, but it doesn’t affect what I do…” Libman said.

“Would you have to recuse yourself from that debate?” Orchard asked.

“To be perfectly transparent, just to avoid any perceived conflict, perhaps I would, but it’s not even necessary, I’ve spoken with ministry officials about that,” Libman said.

Last week, Libman told The Suburban that while he is registered as a lobbyist, “I have no choice —every architect and urban planner that meets with city officials has to do that.”

At another debate at the Or Hahayim Synagogue Brownstein raised the issue of remerger as a “possible” threat. “The threat is not imminent,” he said, “But there have been Mayors who have told me that they’ve heard discussions of the possibility. I wouldn’t want to say more because I don’t want it to happen. I heard it at the municipal level. Certain people at the municipal level would like that to happen.” Brownstein declined to reveal further details.

Libman said Brownstein’s contention is a “scare tactic. “I have tried over and over again to bring issues to the fore that affect Côte St. Luc residents going forward regarding taxation, urban planning challenges, infrastructure and roads, transparency and creative programs for our city and he hasn’t advanced a single idea,” the candidate said. “All he does is try to spin the 15-year-old demerger tale and shy away from the real issues.”

Watch the debate here.

New life breathed into decades-old dream of a Cavendish extension

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After many stalled attempts over the last 80 years, the city of Montreal once again appears to be taking steps to make the extension of Cavendish Blvd. a reality.

The extension of the roadway to link Côte-St-Luc to St-Laurent has been talked about since the 1940s, but a new housing development could provide an impetus to complete it.

On Monday, the city sent out a public notice that Finance Minister Carlos Leitão would hold a news conference that afternoon at City Hall with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough mayor Russell Copeman about the land formerly occupied by the Blue Bonnets horse racing track (later called the Hippodrome). However, as is so often the case with the Cavendish extension, the news conference itself was postponed to another date, as Coderre was testifying before the Chamberland Commission looking into police spying into journalists and his testimony took longer than expected.

Snowdon councillor Marvin Rotrand said the city has been waiting since 2012 for the province to cede the land so it could build a project with at least 5,000 housing units on the 43.5-hectare property.

“The development of the Hippodrome site is part of the city’s plan to develop near heavy transit, and keep people from leaving the island for the suburbs,” Rotrand said.

Rotrand said because the area around Jean-Talon St. at Décarie Blvd is already heavily congested, the extension of Cavendish Blvd. is needed in order not to add more strain to the existing road network.

Rotrand expects a deal with the province to be announced shortly so it can come to a vote at the coming June city council meeting.

While the city and the province came to an agreement on ceding the land in 2012, the file has stalled, said Rotrand, who speculated it was because both levels of government had to iron out terms on the Cavendish extension.

“Part of the deal (with the province to cede the land) was that the city fund part of the Cavendish extension, but while it was put into the city’s capital budget, we never got matching funds from the province,” Rotrand said.

Also on Monday, the city of Côte-St-Luc planned a town hall meeting to answer the public’s questions about the project.

“The Cavendish extension is closer to reality now than ever before,” Côte-St-Luc city councillor Mike Cohen told the Montreal Gazette on Monday. “Once the city (of Montreal gets) that land, the extension will happen sooner than people think. It won’t be a pipe dream anymore.”

Cohen said progress has been made since Coderre announced his intention to go ahead with the project during the last election.

The city has been negotiating with the CN and CP railway companies to build overpasses over the tracks built along the proposed route. Cohen said those negotiations are going well, and he pointed out that the agglomeration council recently set aside $220,000 to conduct a feasibility of the extension.

Proposed for several decades by the Town of Mount Royal, the city of Montreal, and St-Laurent, the extension was held up because the city of Côte-St-Luc didn’t want to give access to thousands of cars to use it as an alternative to the Décarie Expressway.

However, more recent councils have seen the merit in extending the urban boulevard. In 2004, Robert Libman, who was then mayor of a merged Côte-St-Luc, got behind a project by the city to build an indirect link. It would have both ends of Cavendish extended to Royalmount Ave. on the border of Town of Mount Royal and Montreal. Cars would be diverted to the east-west Royalmount to continue their path north or south.

Cohen said Côte-St-Luc now sees an extended Cavendish as an essential link to the road network. It would allow residents to better access the central and western parts of the island, bring them closer to Namur métro station, and serve as a much-needed evacuation route for Côte-St-Luc, which is bordered by train tracks.

Montreal sees Cavendish as a gateway to economic development, as the new access road would be a boon for a $1.7-billion mega mall that developer Carbonleo hopes to build in T.M.R., near the Décarie Circle.

But there is still political opposition to the project. Jeremy Searle, the independent councillor for the Loyola district has said the project would add congestion, and essentially turn Cavendish into a highway.

Peter McQueen, the Project Montréal councillor for the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce sector, said he also fears congestion, but added the route could harm the local economy by diluting traffic from commercial arteries like Monkland Ave. and Queen Mary Rd.

He said the city should also try to add housing without adding cars.

“The need for Cavendish shows the fact the city wants to plan a fairly suburban-type development, similar to Bois-Franc in St-Laurent,” he said, adding that the project should be more oriented towards transit to the métro.

Rotrand countered that the Cavendish extension will reduce the number of cars using through traffic on the streets of Snowdon, because people from Côte-St-Luc, Hampstead and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce now drive through that neighbourhood to get to Décarie. He said the city can control for speed and congestion, by banning cars, or installing traffic lights, stop signs or other traffic-calming measures.

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