Public consultation on Land Use planning

Mo Laidlaw

The MRC des Collines held a public consultation for the municipality of Pontiac, on Wednesday 4 November 2015, at the community hall in Luskville, on the second draft version of the Land Use and Development Plan (Schéma d’aménagement et de développement). MRC Warden Robert Bussières, mayor of La Pêche, introduced the evening by expressing his surprise at the number of people who had turned out (about 40, including council members and staff of the municipality) compared to about 20 at the previous presentations in Cantley, Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette, Val-des-Monts, and L’Ange-Gardien. (The Chelsea meeting was on 5 November and the La Pêche meeting will be held on 23 November at the Sports Complex in Masham at 7 pm.) M. Bussières had only prepared his speech in French.
Stéphane Mougeot, the MRC director general and former director of planning was also present.

First was a presentation by Sylvain Letourneau a planner at the MRC, covering the same material as the four-page French summary. The complete report is 381 pages in French. The report in French and French summary are available on the MRC des Collines website.
Here is an unofficial translation (by Mo Laidlaw) into English of the summary. At the meeting there were a few apologies for the lack of an official translation (“not allowed”!)

Also a map of the municipality extracted from the 381 page report.

All of these documents are available at the municipal office.

It became clear that the Schéma is a regional plan, zoning and planning bylaws will come later, at the municipal level. Provincial authorization is also required so the whole process takes a very long time and although it is supposed to be a 5 year plan it may be in effect for 10 or more years.

Because it is a regional plan, some aspects didn’t make much sense to this resident of the municipality of Pontiac, for example considering Wakefield and Chelsea (within the MRC des Collines) as the two regional centres, rather than Gatineau and Shawville, and omitting route 148 from the summary of the road network. Apart from that it seemed uncontroversial, with eight key issues:
Control urban sprawl by encouraging new homes inside existing urban perimeters, and not allowing residential development in certain rural areas.
Protecting and enhancing farmland.
Encouraging recreational tourism.
The environment - conserving wetlands, protecting water sources, protecting wildlife, and recycling.
Transport - roads and public transport.
Industry and business.
Public services - health, road maintenance, garbage collection, sports, fire safety and police service.
Forestry - reconciling tree harvesting with tourism, cottage living.

The second part of the evening was a question and answer period.
Blake Draper immediately found fault with the statement “encourage organic farming”. “This is too strong a word, it will put farming out of business.” Stéphane Alary backed him up on this, saying that “conventional farming” must be maintained. (“Conventional” farming being the kind of agriculture that uses big machines, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, animals kept inside, etc; industrial scale farming as in the last 50 years, not traditional family farming.)

Several people talked about the problem of construction businesses being run from residential properties, with heavy equipment being parked, or coming and going. There were suggestions that we need an Industrial Park for these activities. Pontiac’s director of planning, Jalloul Salah, explained that this kind of activity is regulated by the Nuisance bylaw and is not considered “Industry,” which refers more to transformation of material. Benedikt Kuhn, Pontiac’s Director General added, “It is futile to adopt new zoning bylaws at the municipal level, until the Schéma comes into force.”

Another issue was “de-structured farmland,” which the plan hopes to take out of the green zone, so that the municipality can allow non-farm uses without reference to the CPTAQ (Commission to protect farm land). Sheila McCrindle queried some of the areas (shown in red on the map) such as the 120 acres owned by Bena Construction on the west side of Terry-Fox south of Maple. “There is one house on this land, does that make it de-structured? The land on the east side of Terry-Fox in Gatineau appears to be farm land, so it is not an ‘island’. Does one house on a 50 acre lot make it possible to build homes without reference to the CPTAQ? This appears to be allowing housing developers to take over the planning process, as they did in Aylmer. Farmland near the city should be preserved to encourage local market gardening businesses.”

Kevin Brady liked the strategic vision but said, “There is no vision or plan at the municipal level. In normal planning a budget would be assigned for the next level of detail. Has this been done?” Stéphane Mougeot replied that this was “a very good question, how do we achieve the goals? The Québec government is modifying the policy, the MRC is leading the development of the community. The planning process involves everybody.”
Caryl Green, the mayor of Chelsea, mentioned that Chelsea has put money in its 2016 budget for consultations. “We don’t necessarily agree with the provincial plan but our hands are tied. For example we consider Farm Point as a second urban core.”

The MRC will be putting comments up on their website. This will include those from the meeting and those received from residents in the next few weeks, which can be sent to Stéphane Mougeot: