A waterfront development decision in Brownsburg-Chatham has provoked emotionally -harged council meetings, opposition from neighbours, and a complaint to Québec’s municipal affairs department.

Council held a special meeting on October 13 to further address a proposal by a developer to construct six semi-detached dwellings with four dwellings in one building and two dwellings in an adjacent building at lot V-425 fronting the Ottawa River near the corner of Route des Outaouais (Route 344) and Montée Vachon.  First reading for the approval of the project had been done by council on October 6.

According to the zoning by-law, the minimum lot width for one house is 150 feet.  Municipal by-laws require that a single house must be on a minimum lot size of 43,000 square feet.  The proposed development would place six dwellings in two buildings on approximately 250,000 square feet of land, including the portion that is underwater.  Additionally, zoning laws do not permit semi-detached homes along the riverfront.

The property is zoned for residential development and is designated for urban uses.

Under Québec planning policies, municipalities are permitted to approve developments that bypass local planning and zoning laws.  The policy is called Réglement sur les project particulieurs de construction, de modification ou d’occupation d’un immeubles (PPCMOI)—a regulation for particular changes to construction, modification, or occupation of structures.  Brownsburg-Chatham approved the use of this policy to encourage local development in 2019.  Council approved the PPCMOI for the proposed Ottawa River development on October 6 even though the Comité consultatif d’urbanisme (CCU) — the local planning committee had rejected it.

At the November 3 council meeting, Mayor Catherine Trickey answered written questions about why public notice was not given in advance of the October 13 special meeting.  She explained that notice of special meetings is not required by provincial law for special meetings, but it is required for regular meetings.  However, council did decide that it would give public notice of all future special meetings as a show of transparency.

Seven residents opposed to the proposed semi-detached development attended the November 3 council meeting.  During the first question period, they voiced their opposition.

“I had the impression that everyone agreed,” was Trickey’s surprised response to the residents.

When council approved second reading of the project, District 6 Councillor Stephen Rowland, who opposes the development, raised his hand, and attempted to speak.

“This is not the time for any questions,” said Trickey, denying Rowland the opportunity to speak.

“This is not time, Monsieur Rowland!” shouted District 1 Councillor Gilles Galarneau.

Rowland was the only councillor to vote against the development.

When the second question period arrived, Rowland again attempted to speak.

“No! I said no!” Trickey said, refusing to allow Rowland to speak.

Trickey insisted that the approval of the PPCMOI has been completely transparent and explained that the purpose of the October 13 meeting was to allow for more discussion on the project.  Rowland also affirmed this purpose and said that the developer has not yet completed the purchase of the land, and that the purchase is conditional on him having council approve the project.  Rowland said another buyer is also interested in the property.

He is also reacting to being denied the permission to speak at the November 3 council meeting.

“That is not allowed,” Rowland said.

He has sent a registered letter to Trickey asking for an apology and has asked the Québec Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l’Habitation to investigate.

Rowland said that including the residents who attended the November 3 council meeting, up to 50 people are opposed to the development.

“They just don’t want it,” he said, noting that it would negatively affect their quality of life.

Québec municipal law allows for a minimum of 12, and a maximum of 21 residents near the property to sign a registry requesting a referendum on planning projects.  A registry has been created in Brownsburg-Chatham and the deadline to sign it was November 13.

Depending on the outcome of the referendum registry, the third and final reading for the proposed waterfront, semi-detached dwellings could be made by Brownsburg-Chatham council when it meets on December 1.