More than 300 Grenville-sur-la-Rouge (GSLR) citizens signed a register at town hall on September 8, demanding that a referendum be held to validate a $352,000 loan bylaw for the Place Rouge Project. Enough citizens signed the register that the motion succeeded in stalling the process. If the town wants to proceed with the bylaw, they will first need to host a referendum asking if citizens are in favour of it.
On August 23, the GSLR council hosted an information session relating to council’s plan to purchase a Hydro Quebec surplus property. The property is currently being leased by Jocelyn (Joe) Fortin as a seasonal campground and beach, known as “La Place Rouge.”
Earlier this summer, The Review interviewed Fortin, who initially objected to the sale due to fears that it would put him out of business.
During an interview with The Review on Monday, GLSR Mayor John Saywell said that this is no longer the case.
“There was a question of who would get to purchase the property. With this agreement, Mr. Fortin gets the benefit of using the property without paying out the cost. He has a six-year guaranteed lease option which pays the entire loan bylaw. It also guarantees that he can stay at least through the next elected council, at which point he could renegotiate his lease. There is also an amortization schedule for his investment. It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” said Saywell.
In a letter sent out to residents and posted on its website, the Municipality of GSLR said that even if it becomes owner of the property, it will not get involved in the management of the campground. The two partners, represented by the municipality and Fortin would be responsible for the maintenance and improvement of the necessary infrastructure.
“Some people came to town hall to sign the registry out of fear of losing the beach (at the Place Rouge). The whole point is to buy the property to protect the beach. The rent from Mr. Fortin would cover the entire cost of the project, which wouldn’t cost taxpayers anything,” said Saywell.
Saywell blames what he refers to as a “misinformation campaign,” for causing confusion in the community. He says it was launched by a small group of people intent on blocking the project.
“More than 350 people were convinced that we are a bunch of liars and thieves. It’s a bad day for our town when fear is used to motivate people,” said Saywell.
The council has voted unanimously to support this project. During the August 23 meeting of council, Fortin also publicly stated his support for the initiative, said Saywell.
The Place Rouge project is completely separate from a much larger plan to create a tourism park to the north of the beach, near the Rouge River. The two projects share a similar timeline, with plans to start working on the infrastructures for both of them early next year. Both projects involve the sale of properties currently belonging to Hydro Quebec.
Now that the loan bylaw has been blocked, Saywell said that council will need to revise its plans. In order to receive approval from the provincial government to get a loan, GSLR would need to host a referendum. For the referendum to pass, a majority of citizens would need to vote in favour of the $352,000 loan bylaw, which was to be amortized over 20 years. The mayor estimates that a referendum would cost the municipality at least $30,000.
Alternatively, GSLR could either abandon the project, or pay for it outright to avoid the loan bylaw.
“We expect that by late October or early November we will have a plan for both the Place Rouge and for the larger park project (to the north),” said Saywell.
Public consultation meetings will be called once the plan is finalized. Saywell said that the town is continuing to negotiate with Hydro Quebec for the final sale price of the larger property it owns along the Rouge River.