Lucerne/Fraser land future
Mayor puts property sale on hold after local outcry
Following an outcry from local residents, Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin requested that the city’s administration put on hold the sale of a municipally-owned property on the corner of chemin Fraser and boulevard de Lucerne.
The decision was made in response to information that wasn’t presented in discussions about putting the property up for sale, including possibilities that the area boasts significant natural wealth and archeological potential, the city announced April 30.
Pedneaud-Jobin thanked citizens and residents’ associations for voicing their concerns on the matter and said he wanted municipal councillors to look into the archeological and ecological characteristics of the property before making a final decision to on whether or not to sell it.
“In the context of climatic urgency, properties in urban areas are more and more strategic,” he said. “We will see from now on that verifications on their ecological value are done systematically before taking the decision to sell public properties.”
Noting that the funds raised from the property’s sale were intended to help subsidize a $10 million property purchase of a chunk of land west of the Canadian Tire in the Plateau, meant for a multi-ice sports complex, the city confirmed that the sale’s suspension won’t have an impact on the arena project’s development. The city put the 50,000-plus square metre property up for tendering on March 6 for the development of a project aimed to maximize population densification and the process was expected to close on May 27.
On April 25, President of the Deschênes Residents Association Howard Powles submitted a letter to the Aylmer Bulletin demanding the city stop the selling process to preserve the area’s ecosystem. On the same date, a seven-year-old Aylmer boy named Winston Perrier launched a Facebook page called Save Fraser/Lucerne Forest, after learning that his nearby forest was about to be sold in exchange for residential development. So far, the page has more than 300 members.
Perrier’s mother Emma Davida-Catmur said that the group’s main goal is to stop the city from selling the property and to modify its zoning to protect its ecosystem, noting that it could be turned into a designated interpretation and preservation park. As a long-time Aylmer resident, Davida-Catmur said that she’s seen countless local natural spaces torn down for infrastructural development to accommodate the area’s constantly growing population.
Considering the level of passion Aylmer residents share when it comes to protecting natural spaces, Davida-Catmur said she wasn’t surprised to the see the page get so much attention so quickly. One of the group’s posts showed a photo with a municipal sign explaining that the area boasts around 270 bird species and more than 930 types of amphibians, reptiles and mammals. According to one of the group’s administrators, Josée Chabot, many of the group’s members participated in the city’s online consultation on its urban planning scheme and zoning regulations. Having contributed to environmental causes in the past, including the protection of the Boucher Forest, Chabot said that the announcement of the Lucerne-Fraser property being up for sale was the last straw. “I don’t want the kids of tomorrow to inherit condos,” she added. “Trees, birds and mammals don’t have a voice. So, it’s up to us to defend them.”
Chabot added that natural spaces are very important for all communities because they are freely accessible to all walks of life. While she was generally happy with the mayor’s announcement, Davida-Catmur said that it was just one of many battles for local environmental protection. “I just hope that, with everything that’s happened right now in the world, we don’t keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result,” she said. “We have to start thinking differently, doing things differently, moving slowly. If and when a piece of forest needs to be destroyed, move slowly. Take into account what is there because once it’s done, it’s done.”
Deschênes councillor Mike Duggan confirmed in a Facebook message that he was in agreement with the mayor’s announcement, noting that he helped him formulate his statement. But if the property ends up getting sold, he said that he would be in favour of an ecological approach that would involve strategic deforestation rather than a complete removal of the forest. “An eco-neighbourhood, if you will,” Duggan said. “It’s important that we accompany the developer in each stage to make sure that the rules are followed,” he added.