Gatineau council meets remotely for full slate
British Hotel expansion approved, $123,000 investment in shop-local program
The British Hotel expansion project was approved by Gatineau councillors May 12, at the regular council meeting. The city clerk noted no opposition to the 80-unit project had been registered during the 60-day period to table a request for a vote or raise concerns. Council also approved the implementation of a promotional campaign in support of shopping locally and slightly modified the law governing potentially dangerous dogs. The meeting was held via video conference, and citizens had been invited to submit questions by email in the days leading up to the session.
Council president Daniel Champaign pointed out that the city had increased efforts to help residents deal with the crisis, noting as an example teams of municipal personnel who had monitored social distancing in parks since April 10. “Unlike a lot of cities, we’ve been able to not close our parks,” Pedneaud-Jobin said. He added that the city had conducted around 4,000 informational interventions in parks over the last month.
The mayor noted that the city had begun giving courtesy calls to vulnerable residents to support them throughout the pandemic, adding that the effects had been very positive. He also announced that around 50 municipal workers would soon start volunteering for community organizations in need of a helping hand.
Protecting the arts and supporting local businesses in Gatineau
On top of launching a $123,000 campaign to support local shopping, Pedneaud-Jobin explained that the city would continue offering subsidies to cultural and event planning community organizations struggling because of coronavirus. “It’s good for the economy,” Pedneaud-Jobin said. “It’s good for the environment and we see it in crises like this. It helps us face it.”
Big win for Aylmer’s community gardens and philanthropy
During the councillors’ comments period, Aylmer councillor Audrey Bureau announced that the Potager à Partager initiative would continue this summer with 27 new community gardens – totaling 32 in the district.
Bureau also announced to council the proposal for three philanthropic projects that will be discussed in July. She suggested councillors explore different avenues relating to philanthropy, notably, the creation of a foundation to finance the city’s library network, a program aimed at the purchase of commemorative urban furniture and trees, and to acknowledge private donors by attributing their names on certain municipal buildings or rooms.
Lucerne councillor Gilles Chagnon addressed the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, thanking the city for its efforts to keep citizens safe. Chagnon also praised an initiative launched by a local men’s hockey league – the Sleeman Hockey League – who donated almost $6,000 to the Aylmer Food Centre with their ice-time money for March and April and individual donations.
Deschênes councillor Mike Duggan stated that the curve had finally started to flatten and that the city’s services were back to operating at an adequate level, considering the circumstances.
“The situation has reached a certain stability,” he said. Addressing concerns about interprovincial closures between Gatineau and Ottawa, Duggan said that the reason was because the number of coronavirus cases in Ottawa was still alarmingly high. The measures were to protect Quebecers from the Ottawa contagions.
Regarding the city’s consultations on its Land Use Development and Planning, and Zoning regulations, as well as a consultation the following week about the reconstruction of Place des Pionniers, Duggan said the city had moved forward despite the current pandemic to avoid additional costs.
Residents concerned about environment, quarantine rules
Council received around 24 enquiries from residents on various subjects, including interregional police checkpoints, the fear of 5G towers and the protection of local green spaces versus urban development.
Several questions focused on deconfinement regulations, notably the opening of community sports fields and dog parks, community facilities and public gatherings. One resident requested that the city reopen the Parc Jardins Lavigne dog park in virtue of it presenting minimal propagation risks. The mayor explained that the city is not in charge of deconfinement guidelines since safety regulations are decided by the provincial department of public health. He added that he has discussed with the provincial department of public health about protocols to reopen closed dog parks, which have been of great concern for residents.
Pedneaud-Jobin invited residents to communicate with their local MNAs to get more information about the evolution of COVID-19 safety regulations. He added that most of Gatineau’s parks had technically never been closed but, rather, monitored for social distancing. For municipal buildings, like libraries, swimming pools and hockey rinks, Pedneaud-Jobin said different protocol were being implemented that the Quebec Government would put it in place when it’s safe.
With police checkpoints assessing travellers on a case-by-case basis, Pedneaud-Jobin invited residents to call their nearest police station to ask under what criteria they would be allowed to go to Ontario or other places. Responding to a concern about street cleaning taking too long, the mayor asked citizens to be patient, as the city’s cleaning crews were still adjusting to working under COVID-19 safety guidelines, and he invited people to call 3-1-1 to make specific requests.
Lucerne and Fraser land controversy
Several citizens enquired about the property on the corner of Lucerne and Fraser, asking if the city could update residents or provide a timeline with steps on its progress, reconsider its sale altogether, and why it rushed to sell it. Duggan replied that it was positive that the city decided to take a step back from the sale, considering that the property’s environmental and archeological value needed to be further taken into question. He added that the zone was already protected with a green corridor and that it included a rockier portion that was zoned for commercial development decades ago, which was why it was initially put on the market. He explained that it was also protected by wetlands closer to the riverbank as well as the bike path.
Expecting around 10,000 new addresses in the next decade, however, Duggan said that the city must find a way to accommodate its growing population while respecting its urban perimeter. “We must decide what greenspaces we will keep and what we will destroy,” Duggan said.
Pedneaud-Jobin responded that the city would not be conducting any new studies about the property, rather than assessing citizens’ concerns about it before making a final decision at council. He added that whoever purchased the property, if and when that happened, would need to abide by provincial laws aimed to protect archeological and environmental wealth. “The law applies no matter who owns it,” he said. “It’s not because we sell that we abandon the protection of a property protected by the law.”
One resident asked what other options the city had to finance the arena project in the Plateau before deciding not to sell the property on Lucerne and Fraser and why they didn’t simply renovate the current arenas. The mayor said that not selling the land wouldn’t have any effect on the arena project, noting that it would only changes the source of the funding, which would need to be determined. He added that the city’s current arenas were well past their expiration dates and that multi-ice sports complexes – la Cité and Plateau - would allow the city to serve the population more adequately with high-end facilities in a more concentrated area.
The next Municipal council meeting is scheduled for June 19, also by video conference, inviting residents to submit questions via e-mail to email@example.com.