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Bécancour facing the specter of urban sprawl | The battery industry

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Feb5,2024

Thousands of workers and their families are expected in the Energy Transition Valley. To accommodate them, we will have to build quickly, but quickly does not always mean good.

Bécancour facing the specter of urban sprawl | The battery sector

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The city of Bécancour is at the dawn of long-awaited growth. But will it be able to take the path of urban densification?

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    The residential district of Seigneurie Godefroy was created in the 1990s. It is mainly made up of single-family houses and there are few local services, because it is isolated from the historic villages that make up the municipality of Bécancour. . It was located here because it is located off Highway 55.

    It’s a very typical residential development, very suburban, the car is king and master, describes biologist Éric Harvey, professor at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières. He has been wondering for several months about the possible harm the battery industry has on the environment.

    The deployment of new neighborhoods like this tends to fragment the fragile natural territories of the municipality, he recalls. By joining the gesture to the word, he points his arms to the four winds to designate the sectors in question.

    There, very close to Lake Saint-Paul, we have identified an important area for aquatic birds. There are spawning grounds there. In fact, south of the St. Lawrence, there are not many natural habitats left, so generally each area is relatively critical.

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    Éric Harvey in the Seigneurie de Godefroy district in Bécancour

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    Should we forget about any new development?, he wonders out loud. Not necessarily, but according to Mr. Harvey, a real planning effort should be made and new construction should be done as a priority in already urbanized areas. However, this is not the path that the city of Bécancour seems to be following, he deplores.

    We often think that densification is only good for Montreal and Quebec, but it is false. All cities have a duty to think about densification.

    A quote from Éric Harvey, holder of the Canada Research Chair on exchanges between ecosystems

    Densifying the Seigneurie Godefroy district was the project of a local developer who wanted to build around a hundred housing units, distributed in four buildings. This initiative, involving the adoption of a zoning change, was contested by the neighborhood who saw their tranquility threatened.

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    Plan of the future construction project of 108 housing units of Terrasses Godefroy, in Saint- Grégoire

    Despite notable modifications and a lengthy consultation process, the project was rejected in a referendum held last fall.

    And yet, for the mayor of Bécancour, there is no time to lose. According to Lucie Allard, the battery sector is an opportunity for her city, but also a great headache.

    It's like a big chessboard being put into place, a formula that she risks repeating often in the coming years while her team has to deal with the collateral effects of the battery industry.

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    Lucie Allard, mayor of Bécancour. (Archive photo)

    For us, the municipal elected officials, it's all about managing growth and we have to be agile because we prepare ourselves as major announcements come from the industry, she explains. In pandemic language, she could have said that the plane must be built in mid-flight.

    In the next 7 to 10 years, it estimates that it will be necessary to build up to 5,000 homes to house workers in the battery sector. For a municipality of 15,000 inhabitants, it’s enormous, she exclaims

    The step is all the higher as there is already a shortage of housing. The vacancy rate is currently less than 1%. To meet the needs, housing developments are underway in almost all sectors. The challenge for Ms. Allard turns out to be finding a formula that satisfies everyone.

    We want to ensure that we keep a middle of life that is interesting, attractive and inspiring for new families, but also the current population who fear losing their quality of life, she explains.

    Bécancour is still a town in the countryside, we want to keep that aspect of things, but we know very well that certain sectors are expected to develop and become more dense.

    A quote from Lucie Allard, mayor of Bécancour< /blockquote>Open in full screen mode

    The May Bourg project, a developing district among others in Bécancour. It is located away from the village of St-Grégoire.

    Issues that Andréanne Blais, general director of the Regional Environmental Council of Centre-du-Québec, monitors. She is particularly interested in the development of Plateau-Laval which is located on the banks of the river, opposite Trois-Rivières.

    This area was identified to requalify and develop land, she explains. However, we are worried about how it will be done.

    Ms. Blais notes that residences are growing like mushrooms, but that the services are not keeping up. Ultimately, she anticipates poorer neighborhoods in terms of quality of life, more monotonous neighborhoods.

    There is a risk, according to her, of unjustified urban sprawl, because there are tools available to think differently. She takes as an example the urban densification guide developed by the municipality of Victoriaville.

    The citizen wants a bungalow, a swimming pool, a large plot of land, but we must offer alternatives that are more innovative. We also do not want to move towards the chicken cage model, we must therefore offer user-friendly densification.

    A quote from Andréanne Blais, general director of the CRE du Centre-du-Québec

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    Andréanne Blais, general director of the Regional Environmental Council of Centre-du-Québec

    < p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">To deal with these changes, Bécancour elected officials called on Vivre en ville, an organization that supports communities in the development of quality living environments.

    Its general director, Christian Savard, concedes that the game is not won in advance. It's quite a challenge, because you have to think quickly and plan quickly, he says. It can be tempting to make easier choices, but unfortunately these will have a long-term impact.

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    Christian Savard is the general director of Vivre in town

    The historical configuration of the city does not help matters, since it is divided into several village centers and there is a risk of dispersion, analysis M. Savard.

    Faced with the low social acceptability of densification, he thinks that elected officials and developers could give in to the temptation to build uninterrupted neighborhoods. little in the middle of nowhere.

    In our opinion, this is not the right direction to take, he continues, because in the long term, it will create problems. other problems. It will then be necessary to increase public infrastructure, such as aqueducts, sewers or roads.

    In a context favoring urban sprawl, its main concern remains mobility. The Bécancour territory is vast and for the moment the car is the only option. According to Mr. Savard, it is necessary to plan habitats and service areas in order to limit the length of travel as much as possible. That's the big challenge, he says.

    The influx of workers is already causing traffic congestion in the industrial zone sector, where the battery industry factories will be located . Trucking has also increased significantly.

    Andréanne Blais is worried about the consequences for the entire region, since Bécancour businesses will not operate in isolation. She anticipates an increase in traffic almost everywhere, whether towards Trois-Rivières, Nicolet, Victoriaville or Montreal.

    Is the current road system developed enough to accommodate trucking and solo driving? What future for the interurban public transport offer, which is currently almost non-existent? Questions that Mr. Blais asks himself, but which remain unanswered since there is no study.

    For her part, Mayor Lucie Allard is impatiently awaiting the results of a study on road safety on Highway 30. This week, the area close to the industrial zone was the scene of a tragic road accident. Three people died.

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    The force of the impact was such that a fire broke out.

    The amalgamated town of Bécancour was created in 1965, at the same time as its industrial zone. It has been repeatedly promised rapid and consistent economic development. Promises never kept. Will this time be the right one?

    Ms. Allard believes in it. To supervise the development of her city, she has just piloted the overhaul of the urban plan which will be presented in the coming weeks.

    I have concerns, like finding ourselves in 10 or 15 years, and then in the end everything we put back in place won't work. “It won't have worked for some reason that I currently don't know,” she said.

    It’s also finding yourself faced with a development that would take place in a perhaps more violent way.

    A quote from Lucie Allard, mayor of Bécancour

    For the moment, she claims to have all the support necessary on the part of the provincial government, even if there remains uncertainty regarding the establishment of schools, daycares or health services which could prove necessary. Among others.

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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