---Controversy brewing over land preparation near Elizabeth Street and Lucerne
Bulldozers stopped on a plot of land with no municipal permits last week sparked plenty of outrage among nearby residents – causing the city to intervene. On October 5 – four days after activities started – a number of Gatineau municipal inspectors and police officers presented themselves at the site to request proof of a tree-cutting permit, which wasn’t provided, before issuing a notice to of work stoppage calling to remove machinery from the property.
Located along the corner of rue Elizabeth and Boulevard de Lucerne, the property is owned by company 6814000 Canada Inc. - which is run by owner of Toitures Raymond and GMR Construction, Marcel Raymond. With an affordable housing project planned on the property, which has been on the shelf for 15 years, Raymond said residents have largely misconceived the situation.
Confirming that he doesn’t have a demolition or tree-cutting permit, Raymond clarified that the bulldozers were being used to level the land and examine its topography. Topped by towering piles of backfill dropped off from a project completed more than a decade ago, Raymond said little plants simply overgrew the rubbish over time. “When they built the school beside it, they left all their backfill there,” Raymond said. “There were about 500 trips of backfill and was about 20-25 feet high.”
He said the city approved to level the land years ago - before he purchased the property - but delayed the work due to associated costs.
---Protesters drew attention to works
Dozens of concerned residents were also on hand to protest and engage the city in the matter and many pictures and videos have been posted on social media about it. A resident living on a property bordering the site, Debbie Tennant, told the Aylmer Bulletin she noticed the work begin last week.
Not seeing a large billboard pertaining to a particular project’s information and permits on the property – as they usually would – she reached out to Aylmer district councillor Audrey Bureau who clarified the property owner had no registered permits from the city and that no construction projects approved on the property.
Bureau told the Aylmer Bulletin that residents notified her of the situation on the evening of October 1, and contacted the city right away to get to the bottom of it. The following day, the city clarified to Bureau that no permit had been obtained and that no projects had been approved on the property. Bureau then requested the city to investigate the matter, before it issued a notice of work stoppage a few days later.
A notice of work stoppage mandates the interruption of specific construction activities until municipal investigators determine whether or not the work is legal has been issued for the site.
“He could get an offense notice, which is basically nothing,” Bureau said. “He could get a statement of offence, which comes with fines … he could also get a demand to restore and reseed the property. That’s one of the powers we have.”
Despite not being opposed to development in Aylmer as many residents are nowadays, local environmental activist France Gagnon believes demolition activities on a property without a permit are unacceptable. “We’re not against development,” Gagnon said during the protest. “But the rules that are set up should be respected … if you don’t have a permit, that means you didn’t check if there are restrictions, if there are any trees to save. There are wetlands in that area. You didn’t verify if you have wetlands to preserve. You didn’t verify anything if you didn’t ask for a permit. That’s what we don’t like.”
Speaking with workers on the site, Gagnon explained that they didn’t know who they were working for – stating that they were assigned by the company providing the machinery.
She added that local developers and the city need to be transparent with residents regarding happenings in their neighbourhood - especially the destruction of ecological habitats – and that people will continue to fight for the right to public information.
Claiming that the area was previously largely wooded and no longer, Gagnon and Bureau believe the work has likely involved the destruction of many trees and plants.
Owner of the property, Mr Raymond, believes many overreacted when accusing him of destroying local green space. “We’re not doing anything wrong,” Raymond said.
Noting that all equipment was removed from the site upon request, he emphasized that no major demolition or tree-cutting took place and that he would never cut major trees with no permit. Having communicated with the city about the property’s tree population, Raymond said his workers have identified one tree – which was deemed at risk of falling on a nearby home. But it hasn’t been cut yet.
Wanting to examine the property’s topography before building on it, he added that work was planned to stop after finishing leveling the land – which was coincidentally the same date the notice of work stoppage was issued. He added that doesn’t need a permit to level his own property and that, while work is interrupted for now, activities will resume once he obtains a construction permit from the city.
If everything goes as planned Raymond’s project includes the construction of a three-building, three and half-storey (three floors plus a basement) 16-unit affordable housing complex on the site.
A Gatineau spokesperson told the Aylmer Bulletin that the Service the l’urbanisme et du développement durable (SUDD) issued the work stoppage notice for building without a permit and will follow up with Raymond regarding the situation.
Police are expected to monitor the area in the coming days because so many residents mobilized themselves to stop the bulldozing, the city said. Measured at 7,340.90 square metres, the property is valued at approximately $661,000. It is not located in a wooded area according zoning regulations and isn’t situated in an eco-territory, nor a green corridor.
However, maps from Canards Illimités and the Ministry of Environment and Parks indicate a swamp on the property, according to the city.