Tue. May 21st, 2024

Pointe-Claire’s “last breath of fresh air” under threat

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Nov19,2023

The future of a forest in western Montreal that is home to endangered species is compromised by the projects of developer Cadillac Fairview, owner land, and the construction of a REM station nearby.

The “last breath of fresh air” of Pointe-Claire under threat

Open in full screen mode

Geneviève Lussier, resident of Pointe-Claire, has been actively involved in the Save the Fairview Forest citizen movement since 2020.

  • Valérie Boisclair (View profile)Valérie Boisclair

Feature being tested

Log inCreate my account

Speech synthesis, based on artificial intelligence, makes it possible to generate spoken text from 'a written text.

Interrupted at times by the noise of vehicles, Geneviève Lussier walks along the wooded area. Signs here and there remind her that she does not have the right to access private property. On the other side of a long fence, the forest clashes with the concrete that surrounds it.

Located in the northern part of Pointe-Claire, the 17.5-hectare wooded area extends onto the land next to the Fairview Pointe-Claire shopping complex, very close to Highway 40.

In Montreal, everything is asphalt! says the citizen. It's a miracle that this forest will still be here in 2023, she adds. You absolutely must keep it.

Alongside dozens of citizens, Geneviève Lussier campaigns for the protection of the land and calls on municipal authorities within the Save the Fairview Forest group.

The movement, which has held more than 150 demonstrations around the forest, was formed in the fall of 2020 after the developer announced his development project. Owner of the land since 2013, Cadillac Fairview announced in October of the same year its intention to develop an office tower, housing, hotel, shops and a residence for the elderly.

Open in full screen mode

Signs installed all around the land indicate that the forest is private property to which access is prohibited to the public.

Concerned, citizens refuse to let the developer raze the forest, which they want to see protected in perpetuity, in its entirety, insists Geneviève Lussier. Its disappearance would mean the loss of a buffer zone that residents consider essential, where noise and pollution from the Trans-Canada Highway percolate.

We are in one of the worst heat islands in Montreal. The forest is the last breath of fresh air in the sector.

A quote from Geneviève Lussier, spokesperson for Save the Fairview Forest

In Pointe-Claire, the development of the residential and commercial sectors has rapidly disappeared natural environments in favor of asphalt surfaces. Due to a lack of sufficient forest cover, the municipality is struggling with urban heat islands that are particularly concentrated in the north of the city, where the Fairview forest is located.

Start of widget. Skip the widget?End of widget. Return to start of widget?

The phenomenon is accentuated by the central place occupied by the automobile in Pointe-Claire, a place which has influenced the way in which the city has developed its territory. More than 20% of this is devoted to road development, compared to 6% for parks and green spaces.

Rare natural environment in the scenery, the Fairview forest is one of only three woodlands found in the Pointe-Claire territory. Almost half of the site is populated with century-old trees.

In addition to wooded areas and wastelands, there are three wetlands, including two large tree swamps composed of red maples and silver maples.

Only 0.5% of Pointe-Claire's territory is made up of wetlands. Those found in the Fairview Forest are almost the last ones spared.

In mid-October, a study commissioned by the Environmental Heritage Fund identified more than 240 flora and fauna species in the forest, including 35 at risk. The monarch butterfly, the little brown bat, the black maple and the butternut are among the endangered species identified.

In light of these results, the firm TerraHumana Solutions, responsible for the inventory, called on the City to re-evaluate the planned development of this wooded area and to prioritize its conservation.

Open in full screen mode

In the spring of 2023, citizens saw the appearance of a fence that runs along almost the entire forest. Since its installation as well as the installation of signs, the members of Save the Fairview Forest no longer venture into the field, according to Geneviève Lussier.

The presence of the brown snake, which is only found in Greater Montreal, was noted by government biologists. This species is threatened by urban development, which causes the fragmentation and destruction of its habitat.

As several individuals have been counted in the forest, the #x27;former Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks considered that the site constituted an important link in ensuring the recovery of this species with its precarious status.

Along the wasteland where the brown snake population was established, the trees give way to gravel where the Fairview–Pointe-Claire REM station is located. On this other front, the Fairview Forest is also under pressure from development.

The construction of the station has to date reduced approximately 3.5 hectares of the forest. An area that Save the Fairview Forest would have liked CDPQ Infra, responsible for the development of the REM, to compensate by purchasing sections of the Cadillac Fairview wooded site.

Open in full screen mode

The construction of the Fairview–Pointe-Claire REM station, between the Highway 40 and the wooded terrain, puts pressure on the forest.

A quick glance shows that the work is unfinished and that parking will eventually have to be created.

As the forest is in a TOD zone, a high-density development area around a public transit station, residents expect to see an influx of population into the area. People will settle around it, they have several cars. They are going to want to use the REM, so they have to be able to park somewhere, summarizes Geneviève Lussier.

We are concerned that [CDPQ Infra] continues to expropriate the Cadillac Fairview wooded land to build the REM station parking lot in the wasteland.

A quote from Geneviève Lussier, spokesperson for Save the Fairview Forest

Gesturing with her hand to the deserted parking lot of the Fairview Pointe-Claire shopping center, #x27;across the street, Geneviève Lussier says she hopes that motorists will be able to leave their vehicles there to take public transportation. It would be much better if the parking lot was in this already concreted area and we kept the forest as is, she maintains.

However, Cadillac Fairview is counting on this parking lot to carry out its major real estate project.

In turn, the City of Pointe-Claire and the Metropolitan Community of Montreal adopted interim control regulations (ICR) in 2022 which freeze development in the Fairview Forest.

Coming to power in November 2021, Mayor Tim Thomas campaigned by promising to protect the Fairview Forest from the developer's projects.

Given the speed at which the area is becoming denser around the forest, it seems absurd to me to try to raze it. It makes no sense in the context of an environmental crisis.

A quote from Tim Thomas, mayor of Pointe-Claire

If the RCI is only a temporary measure which can be lifted at any time, it nevertheless allows the administration to save time. The Municipality is revising its urban plan, which establishes the guidelines for development on its territory. This is an opportunity to hear what citizens have to say on this subject, what they want to do with Pointe-Claire and to what extent they want a green city, indicates the Mayor Thomas.

Open in full screen mode

The Save the Fairview Forest group would like the parking lot of the Cadillac Fairview Pointe-Claire shopping center to become the site of the future REM station parking lot.

As the land where the shopping center is located and its parking lot is also subject to the RCI, Cadillac Fairview decided in 2022 to take the matter to court. The dispute between it and the City of Pointe-Claire has not yet been resolved.

Cautious, Mayor Thomas avoids commenting on the avenues considered to resolve the impasse. Faced with a municipal council dominated by elected officials in favor of the development proposed by Cadillac Fairview, Mr. Thomas argues that his powers are limited.

At this stage At this time, the City is not considering making a purchase offer to the developer, as the citizens of Save the Fairview Forest would like.

By virtue of its powers, the City of Pointe-Claire could decide to modify the zoning of the land to prohibit the construction of residences and businesses. However, it would become exposed to a lawsuit for expropriation, like many municipalities in Greater Montreal which found themselves in a standoff with developers.

For now, we don't know what Cadillac Fairview wants to do. No official or definitive plan specifying what [the developer] wants to build on this land has been submitted to the municipal council, assures Mr. Thomas.

Asked if its project has been revised since 2020, Cadillac Fairview did not respond to requests for interviews from Radio-Canada. In a press release dated October 25, the developer indicates that it does not hold any construction permit to move forward with its project.

Cadillac Fairview nevertheless benefits from authorization from the Ministry of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks (MELCCFP) to proceed with the backfilling of 384 square meters of wetlands in the Fairview forest .

After rejecting a request for a certificate of authorization from the developer in 2018, the ministry produced a document in October 2022 authorizing the filling of the entirety of one of the three wetlands, a small swamp of 117 m2, as well as than on 267 m2 of a red maple swamp with a total area of ​​6300 m2.

Cadillac Fairview had to pay nearly $76,750 to compensate for the destruction of these environments, as required by the Health Quality Act. #x27;environment.

Under this authorization, the developer is not entitled to carry out work on the largest of wetlands, one more marsh of 15,000 m2, part of which was destroyed by the REM.

The Ministry judged that this plan met expectations in terms of minimizing encroachments, in particular by avoiding the entirety of MH2, a wetland of great ecological interest, explains a spokesperson for the MELCCFP.

Open in full screen mode

Geneviève Lussier believes that the protection of the Fairview forest is essential to mitigate the effects of heat islands which are concentrated in the north of the city of Pointe-Claire.

While Cadillac Fairview considers the authorization very restrictive, the Save the Fairview Forest group is concerned about seeing the ministry open the door to the destruction of wetlands.

The Quebec government, recalls Geneviève Lussier, has nevertheless announced investments of more than 650 million dollars for the protection of natural environments. These amounts should make it possible to support Pointe-Claire in the acquisition of the Fairview forest land, argues the citizen.

Rather than shouldering the bill alone, the City of Pointe-Claire must obtain help from different levels of government, according to Geneviève Lussier.

They made promises at COP15. Here, we really need to act. Montreal's natural heritage is disappearing visibly, as we see here.

A quote from Geneviève Lussier, spokesperson for Save the Fairview Forest

The MELCCFP instead recommends that citizens and municipalities turn to conservation organizations, funded by the government, for help in their efforts.

For the moment, relations between the developer and the population are at a standstill. The latest discussions took place during a public session held in 2021 for concerned citizens.

Cadillac Fairview, which inaugurated its Pointe-Claire shopping center in 1965, says it has been part of the community for 60 years, raises Geneviève Lussier. He is expected to prove it with actions.

He must realize that the community is mobilizing for this forest, she adds. We need it.

  • Valérie Boisclair ( View profile)Valérie BoisclairFollow
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 natasha@thetimeshub.in 1-800-268-7116

Related Post