Aylmer’s zoning the only change discussed
Angry residents dominate public consultation on Château Cartier condos
Voices were raised, arms thrown up in despair, and numerous questions were left unanswered during a two-hour public consultation on a zoning change, August 19 at Gatineau City Hall.
In fact, three zoning changes, one in Gatineau, one in Hull and one in Aylmer, were on the agenda. However, the two city representatives and one councillor only discussed the Aylmer change because those present were solely interested in that one.
192 new units on Aylmer Road ?
The zoning change in Aylmer, for which the city adopted a proposed bylaw on July 7, 2015, is to accommodate a developer looking to build two multiple-family dwellings of 96 units each on a vacant lot along Aylmer Road. The proposed buildings are the fifth and sixth phases of the Château Cartier residential project carried out by Les Placements Katasa Holdings Inc.
The residents, primarily living in the first two phases of Château Cartier, were well prepared and unleashed a barrage of questions.
First, one resident asked why most councillors were absent, as they are the ones who will vote on the zoning change. There were only two councillors present, Richard Bégin, Deschênes councillor and chair of the planning committee, and Jean Lessard, Rivière Blanche councillor who only introduced himself at the end of the meeting. Mr. Bégin explained that the city was following protocol in regards to a zoning change by holding this public consultation, then an employee from Aylmer’s planning committee explained the zoning change.
After analyzing the developer’s request, made this past winter, Gatineau’s planning committee recommended approving the zoning change request to expand residential zone H-14-027, using part of recreational zone R-14-025 just to the south. This lot of roughly 11,300 square meters has both recreational and residential zoning and the project overlaps zones.
The change would also increase the site density from 0.3 meter to 0.65 meter, reduce the rear setback from seven to one meter, and remove the maximum number of dwellings per building (each with a maximum of six storeys).
Furthermore, “two articles under item-specific provisions for the category of single-family dwelling are removed” one of which is Article 469, “no parking in the front yard.” The lot is bounded by the Chaudière golf course to the south and by Aylmer Road to the north. This point led to some confusion as city representatives were under the impression that the promoter would not be allowed to build a parking lot along Aylmer Road, recognized as a country and heritage road. This point was not the only muddled item.
Condo residents point to problems
First-phase condo residents asked city staff how big the projected buildings would be and how many units they would hold. The representative from the planning committee was unable to answer, to the displeasure of residents.
“How can we address a project without knowing what we are talking about?” asked one resident. The employee replied that the consultation was only about the zoning change. “Yes, but the zoning change is to allow the project to go forward,” replied another resident. After a few exchanges between residents and municipal staff, an individual got up and launched into a “cri du coeur.”
What is future picture of Aylmer?
First he told the room that certain individuals present were not there in the interest of residents. Exasperated by his own personal experience in Gatineau, the individual told the municipal employees that they had a choice a make and that if they wanted Gatineau to resemble the United Arab Emirates with high rises and no green spaces than they should continue what they are doing, but that he would have no part in it.
The speaker had purchased a condo a dozen months ago and moved to Aylmer with his family from Ontario, but he is now heading back across the river. “My wife was going to learn French, my children would have attended a French-language school, we would have participated in the region’s culture, but we are going back to Ontario,” he said. His family came because they love nature and green spaces, but seeing how the city is managed and how development is unfolding, he said he preferred paying more money to live in smaller, less luxurious living quarters in Ontario. At the end of his statement, he dramatically left the room to much applause.
Another resident started finger-pointing the city.
He said the sixth phase of Château Cartier was initially not planned; he questioned the height of the buildings because, he argued, what Gatineau identified as a mezzanine served as an extra storey in certain condo towers. The resident also said that removing the rear setback for the projected buildings made no sense since they would back directly onto the golf course. “Did anyone think about the golf balls? Will the city force the developer to install a large net?” he asked.
Lastly, he wondered who was keeping the developer in check. “Initially, it was announced there would be 320 units but now it’s gone up to 540 units and an extra phase! Where are the inspectors?” The resident was upset that the city was not monitoring construction and that it permitted the project to completely change over time. “I would not have purchased a ‘luxurious’ condo if I would have known the city (by its lack of oversight) imposed upon us a financial loss,” argued another resident. “This is no longer a country charm project, as it was initially branded,” said another Aylmerite.
The dozen residents present at the public consultation say they plan to fight the zoning change and will continue to air their grievances at the next city council meeting. “The city needs to respect residents. We will make our voices heard!” he insisted.