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Why sell lands to the MRC?

31 juillet 2011

Following the information session held on July 27, here are our comments on the proposed transaction by the City of Brownsburg-Chatham with the MRC d’Argenteuil.

Were present: Marc Carrière, general manager and secretary-treasurer of the MRC d’Argenteuil, Georges Dinel, Mayor of Brownsburg-Chatham, Agnès Grondin, Environmental Advisor of the MRC d’Argenteuil, Éric Pelletier, Forest Engineer, Coordinator and Multi-Use Project Managemer of the MRC d’Argenteuil, as well as councilors of the city of Brownsburg-Chatham Messrs. Louis Quevillon, André McNicoll, Richard Boyer and Jean-Claude Lalonde.

Portrait of lands:

The first lot called « Smith Field » is between the montée St-Philippe and the montée Robert. It covers 206 hectares. It was purchased by the city in 1984 for the sum of $ 205 000, with a grant of 25%. The municipal valuation is $ 154 500.

The second lot , of 240 hectares, was purchased by Brownsburg-Chatham to the Québec Department of Transport for the sum of $ 1. The municipal valuation is $ 227 300. The Department of Transport requires that the land not be sold, it agrees with the donation to the MRC.

Given the presence of wetlands (27%) and 17% of agricultural land, there can be only light development that can be developed. We think more of ecotourism than permanent infrastructure.

The main arguments of the city and the MRC:

1) The MRC has developed an expertise in project conservation and development, and has a multidisciplinary team of professionals.

Since Brownsburg-Chatham is part of the MRC, it has access to these professionals. This is evidenced by the monitoring committee to study the land and the development proposal (click here for full documents in French) which included Éric Pelletier, Forest Engineer, Multi-Use Coordinator and Project Managemer of the MRC d’Argenteuil. These studies were paid by the City of Brownsburg-Chatham, and did not include the sale of land to the MRC. These professional documents are likely to reassure those with concerns about environmental protection in the territories.

Moreover, it is noted both the city and the MRC are governed by the same laws and regulations and must rely on the Commission de protection du territoire agricole  (CAPTAQ) prior to any rezoning. The subdivision is prohibited.

2) The City of Brownsburg-Chatham has no money to develop the land.

However, in the studies available online sources of possible funding are detailed: Programme d’aquisition d’Espaces verts à valeur écologique (le Fonds vert), Programme de mise en valeur des ressources du milieu forestier (volet II), Pacte rural, le Fonds sur les infrastructures municipales rurale (FIMR).  In addition:

« Brownsburg-Chatham is a producer registered with the Forestry Agency for the development of private forests of the Laurentians. As such, it can get grants through its accredited forestry advisor to develop its forest. » (P. 31 of the Protection Plan and Development – Part II, Google translation).

Also, the city has a development tool in the Société de développement économique de Brownsburg-Chatham (SDEBC) and the organisation, being a non-profit one, could have access to more funds, especially in the Programme de mise en valeur des ressources du milieu forestier (volet II).

Mayor Dinel seems to think it a good deal, receiving $ 200 000 in this transaction. However, as a member of the MRC, the city will assume its share, which will reduce the profit. And the city must provide its share in each stage of development. Moreover, is it truly the real value for such an important piece of land? Also, the city would lose revenue collection of rustic camping as it was foreseen in the plan.

Marc Carrière said the MRC will not develop if it does not get 75 to 80% financing. Why should it be different for the city? The development will be phased with the MRC. It could be done gradually by the city as well.

The only emergency is to prevent damage to the fragile territory and to ensure to stop the « disorderly practices » identified in the studies by current users (all-terrain vehicles, horseback riding …)

Mr. Carrière emphasized the need to pool resources, assemble our forces. Still, the decisions affecting this area will be diluted now with eight municipal governments that have a say, while they are subject to change at any given election. The presence of the MRC is in itself a union of forces. Mr. Carrière finds it also important to remind that the MRC is present and has not hesitated to contribute to the renovation of the church St.Mungo’s, for multi-terrain in Lachute. These examples tend to show that we do not need the MRC purchasing property in order to get involved in an ecotourism project that can only add value to the Route verte.

The establishment of a regional park may be overseen by the MRC without it needing to own the land in question. It may also enter into an agreement with the owner, in this case the City of Brownsburg-Chatham. The Boisé multiresource von Allmen is owned by the city of Saint-André d’Argenteuil and the MRC is a partner. Why would it not be the case in Brownsburg-Chatham? Development can be done gradually if we have elected officials who know where to ask for funding.Il is possible to make a beautiful park in partnership, without citizens losing a significant portion of their territorial heritage.

The meeting ended with a sad note. Mr Dinel says the decision is made. Informing the population is limited to giving arguments without disccussion possible.

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