Residents’ associations in Aylmer express their views on the new urban plan
At the initiative of the Champlain Park and Surrounding Area Residents’ Association, the 14 neighbourhood associations in Aylmer began working together in February to actively participate in the City of Gatineau’s consultations for the revision of its urban plan. Echoing the voices of citizens who are increasingly expressing their concerns about the accelerated residential and commercial development of recent years, the associations decided to jointly communicate their views on the City’s directions for the future.
“The development plan adopted in 2015 truly presents a progressive vision for the development of Gatineau,” explained Darquis Gagné, President of the Champlain Park and Surrounding Area Residents’ Association. “We applaud this willingness to change the way real estate and commercial development is done, because the current model is not viable in the long term. While the development plan sets out clear orientations in terms of creating complete living environments that include local services, where active and sustainable transportation is encouraged and where trees and natural environments are preserved, we believe that the urban plan proposed by the city could better reflect the ambitious objectives of the plan.” For Mr Gagné’s association, it is particularly important that new developments take into account the need for public and community facilities and services resulting from the projects, such as active and public transit, schools and daycares, parks and community centres, and that there be concerted planning between developers, the city and the government. “We must no longer work in silos,” he concludes.
In the brief submitted by the residents’ associations during the April 28 consultation, they recognize the relevance of densification in the context of limiting urban sprawl, but they ask that efforts be focused on densification on a human scale. “We feel that the urban plan presented places a strong emphasis on new developments and that integration with existing neighbourhoods is not very well specified,” said Andréanne Léger of the Lakeview Terrace Residents’ Association. “We want the development to respect the preservation and promotion of the identity, heritage and cultural values of our neighbourhoods, and we feel that this plan proposes standardized measures that do not really take this into account,” she concludes.
For Lise Filiatrault, Vice-President of the Friends of Wychwood, the urban plan does not sufficiently specify how the forest cover will be preserved and how the ecological services provided by our natural environments will be taken into account: “As the plan itself states, the City of Gatineau currently has few tools to better protect existing trees on private property. We are therefore calling for a quick update of the regulations so that we do not constantly find ourselves with new developments completely stripped of mature trees.” In this sense, the Aylmer associations are also asking for “a real involvement of the environment department in all decisions related to development, to ensure that the objectives of protection and enhancement of our natural heritage are respected and that exemptions to this effect are not constantly granted”.
The residents’ associations are pleased that the city is consulting the population as part of the revision of the Master Plan, but they would like the city to take advantage of the exercise to strengthen its consultation process. “We propose that citizens, particularly through their residents’ associations, be consulted from the design stage of projects by developers in order to improve the projects and promote their social acceptability,” said Bettyna Bélizaire, President of the Plateau Residents’ Association. “Development is happening quickly in our neighbourhood and some projects have been controversial recently,” she notes. “A real collaboration between citizens, developers and city services can only be positive. Everyone will benefit from new developments that will truly and adequately meet the needs of people in the Aylmer.
Aylmer residents’ associations will officially submit their brief to the City of Gatineau in early May. “There are a lot of questions in this brief and we hope that we will have an extended hand from the city to answer our questions,” said Mr Gagné. “We are mobilizing because we deeply love our city and we want to contribute to improving the quality of life of our fellow citizens. We are proud of the dialogue that has been established between residents’ associations. Now, we wish to continue this dialogue with elected officials and the administration. We are working in a constructive spirit of cooperation and we will continue our efforts to help make Gatineau a city where life is truly enjoyable.” (Trans.)