Safety Setbacks Could Make Meadowbrook Residential Development Impossible

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The following article was written by Cote Saint-Luc Councillor Dida Berku and appeared in the Autumn 2013 Les Amis de Meadowbrook Newsletter.

I have supported Dida Berku from the outset in the quest to preserve Meadowbrook. You can get all the background info on this 25 year effort by searching “Meadowbrook” on this blog.

Dida’s efforts may very well benefit not only those of us who advocate to keep this invaluable piece of land as green space in perpetuity for all to enjoy, but many other spaces across the country.

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Safety Setbacks Could Make Meadowbrook Residential Development Impossible

By Dida Berku

It is now clear that the catastrophic derailment in Lac Mégantic last July helped convince Montreal’s political leaders of the need for safety setbacks to protect new residences from the hazards of adjacent railways.

Last month, Montreal City Council and the mayors of all Island suburbs unanimously adopted a resolution directing the city’s urban planning department to integrate the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) proximity guidelines into the new urban plan of the Island of Montreal, scheduled to be adopted in 2014.

These guidelines were established by the FCM, which represents all cities across the country, and the Railway Association of Canada (RAC), which represents all its railway companies. The guidelines, first written a decade ago and updated in 2013, propose 30-metre setbacks from railway main lines and 300-metre setbacks from rail yards for all new housing projects.

Meadowbrook is 300 metres wide at the Cote St. Luc entrance and narrows to a point at the boundary of Lachine and Montreal West. Since Meadowbrook is adjacent to the CP yards in Cote St. Luc and the Sortin yards in Lachine, which houses AMT commuter railway repair shops, the adoption of these guidelines in Montreal’s new urban plan would make it practically impossible for any new homes to be built on this site.

For many years, Les Amis has advocated against building housing in proximity to the extensive rail lines and yards near the golf course. The adoption of these guidelines is a major step towards establishing Meadowbrook as a buffer zone between rail activities and housing.

I drafted the proposed resolution, and I can honestly say that this is one of the most gratifying accomplishments of my political career, and a critical milestone in the long journey to save Meadowbrook from development and transform it into a park.

Montreal will be the first city in Canada to embrace these guidelines and will be in a good position to ask the railways to improve the safety and security of their activities in our communities.

Now, let’s all see how we can leverage this resolution in our efforts to protect this precious green space. Meanwhile, Les Amis will continue to monitor and push for these guidelines to be adopted and integrated into the Island of Montreal’s new urban plan.

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Les retraits de sécurité pourraient rendre impossible le développement de Meadowbrook

par Dida Berku

La catastrophe de Lac Mégantic en juillet dernier a finalement convaincu les élus montréalais qu’il fallait des retraits de sécurité afin de protéger les nouvelles résidences des accidents ferroviaires.

Le mois denier, le conseil municipal de Montréal et les maires des villes de banlieue de l’île de Montréal ont unanimement adopté une résolution enjoignant au service d’urbanisme d’intégrer les directives de la Fédération canadienne des municipalités (FCM) dans le nouveau plan d’urbanisme de l’île de Montréal qui doit être adopté en 2014.

Ces directives ont été établies par la FCM, qui représente toutes les villes canadiennes, et l’Association des chemins de fer du Canada (ACFC), qui représente toutes les compagnies ferroviaires. Ces directives, rédigées il y a une dizaine d’années et mises à jour en 2013, proposent que tout nouveau projet résidentiel soit éloigné de 30 mètres des voies ferrées et de 300 mètres des gares de triage.

Meadowbrook fait 300 mètres de largeur à l’entrée de Côte St. Luc et se termine en pointe à la limite de Lachine et Montréal-Ouest. Puisque Meadowbrook voisine la gare de triage du CP à Côte St. Luc et la gare de triage Sortin à Lachine, où se trouvent les ateliers de l’AMT, l’adoption de ces directives rendrait à toutes fins impossible la construction de nouvelles maisons sur le site.

Depuis plusieurs années, Les Amis fait des représentations contre la construction de résidences à proximité des voies ferrées et des gares de triage près du terrain de golf. L’adoption de ces directives marque un grand pas pour faire de Meadowbrook une zone tampon entre les activités ferroviaires et l’habitation.

J’ai rédigé la résolution et je peux dire qu’il s’agit de l’une des réalisations les plus gratifiantes de ma carrière politique et d’un jalon important pour sauver Meadowbrook du développement et le transformer en parc.

Montréal est la première ville canadienne à appuyer ces directives et sera ainsi mieux positionnée pour demander aux compagnies ferroviaires d’améliorer la sécurité de leurs opérations dans nos collectivités.

Voyons maintenant comment nous pouvons utiliser cette résolution pour protéger ce précieux espace vert. Les Amis continuera de surveiller et de pousser l’adoption de ces directives et leur intégration au nouveau plan d’urbanisme de l’île de Montréal.

City council: New rules would prevent construction near tracks, railway yards

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

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.

 

Historic vote for Montreal Mayor

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What a week at Montreal City Hall!

Michael Applebaum has made the local history books becoming the first English-speaking mayor in 100 years. Also, Montreal has not seen a Jew in the Mayor’s chair since Joseph Shubert was appointed Acting Mayor of Montreal for a period of three months, on August 29, 1927.

Although the vote was a squeaker with Applebaum taking 31 votes to Richard Deschamps’ 29 votes, there were three spoiled ballots which could have shifted the outcome the other way. The vote for interim mayor was a secret ballot of Council members only since Mayor Gerald Tremblay stepped down less than one year prior to the next general election on November 3, 2013.

Councillors Ruth Kovac and Glenn J. Nashen with CDN-NDG Borough Mayor Michael Applebaum

The fact that a by-election was not needed saved Montreal taxpayers about $10,000,000 according to media reports.

Michael Applebaum has shown himself as an honest, hard working and dedicated Borough Mayor and Chair of the Executive Committee. I have seen him in action with regard to the expansion of the Jewish General Hospital as well as other issues in the Cote des Neiges-NDG borough. He is on top of his files and thoroughly understands the needs of his constituents.

Any criticism of his French-language skills is ridiculous. His French is excellent, regardless of his accent. Even Montreal opposition leader Louise Harel said that she wished she spoke English as well as Applebaum speaks French. In fact, he didn’t even speak a word of English during his pre-vote address to Council! (It wouldn’t have hurt).

Applebaum will now lead not only Montreal City Council and his borough, but also the Agglomeration Council responsible for regional services including the Montreal Island demerged municipalities, the Ville Marie downtown borough and the Montreal Metropolitan Community.

Councillors Ruth Kovac, Glenn J. Nashen and Sam Goldbloom discuss local issues with Cote des Neiges – NDG Borough Mayor Michael Applebaum (2nd from left)

Huge responsibilities, demands and expectations lie ahead for Applebaum. If he succeeds in cleaning up the image and reputation of Montreal and setting the course for a solid future as an independent mayor don’t be surprised to see his name on next year’s ballot (regardless of today’s intentions).

So, congratulations Mayor Applebaum. I wish you great success and courage in all the lies ahead. As a Cote Saint-Lucer I’m looking forward to your leadership and vision to benefit all those who reside on the Island of Montreal and across the region.

City of Montreal pulls the plug on Cavendish again

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Côte Saint-Luc, September 14, 2012 – Only six months after announcing the Blue Bonnets agreement, which included the funding for Cavendish Blvd. road extension project, the City of Montreal has reneged on its undertaking and put the project on the back burner.
In March 2012, the City of Montreal and the Quebec government signed an agreement to transfer the Blue Bonnets race track land to the City of Montreal. One of the conditions of the transfer was an undertaking by the City of Montreal to set aside $44 million for phase 1 of the Cavendish Blvd. road extension project in its three-year Capital Works Budget. This agreement was ratified by the unanimous vote of the Montreal City Council on March 26, 2012.
Notwithstanding this undertaking in the agreement to set aside $44 million for this project and notwithstanding the unanimous resolution of Montreal City Council ratifying the agreement, the Tremblay administration has withdrawn the Cavendish Blvd. road extension project from the proposed three-year Capital Works Budget for 2013-2015, even though it was included in the last year’s three year budget (2012-2014). The proposed budget—without the funds for the Cavendish Blvd. road extension project—will be presented to Montreal City Council for adoption on September 20, 2012.
“The City of Côte Saint-Luc has worked very hard with our neighbouring cities and boroughs to convince the Tremblay administration that the Cavendish extension be made a priority,” said Anthony Housefather, Mayor of Côte Saint-Luc. “We worked with the local Liberal MNAs to find means of funding the project and over the last six months the announcements related to the Blue Bonnets site had pushed the project forward. The proposal by the City of Montreal to remove these amounts from the PTI is a complete reversal of commitments made only months ago and is completely unacceptable to those living and working in the west end and West Island of Montreal.  We will use all means at our disposal to oppose this reversal.”
As well, the new Capital Works Budget does not provide for the completion of the feasibility studies that the City of Montreal also undertook to do. Since 2005, it has spent $2.5 million on these studies but so far has refused to make them public and now is refusing to complete them.
“This omission is in total violation of the Blue Bonnets agreement and the unanimous vote of Montreal City Council,” said Côte Saint-Luc Councillor Dida Berku. “This flies in the face of the will of all the councils of the boroughs of St. Laurent, CDN-NDG and cities of Côte Saint-Luc, Town of Mount Royal, Hampstead, and Dollard des Ormeaux, which have systematically called for the extension of Cavendish to be included in the Agglomeration of Montreal Transport Plan and in the Capital Works Budget of the City of Montreal. As well it flies in the face of the conditions in the Blue Bonnets agreement with the Quebec government and is a reversal of the public commitments and pronouncements of the Tremblay administration, made six months ago.”
When the Blue Bonnets agreement was announced, Minister Raymond Bachand said that one of the conditions of the transfer was that the proceeds would be used to finance the Cavendish Blvd. road extension project and that the City of Montreal would commit to proceeding with the feasibility studies in order to advance this project.
“We encourage residents to attend the meeting at Montreal City Hall on Thursday, September 20 and voice their concerns during question period,” said Councillor Berku.
Copies of the Blue Bonnets agreement, the 2012-2014 Capital Works Budget, and a press release from the City of Montreal announcing the commitment to build the Cavendish Blvd. road extension project are available at www.CoteSaintLuc.org/CavendishExtension.