Dear APAW members:
We hope that you are enjoying the annual spring transitions in Angell Woods, as the trout lilies give way to trilliums and the maple, ash and iron-wood tree buds burst into their summer leaves.
You may be aware that as part of its exercise of putting in place up-to-date zoning rules to comply with the regional PMAD and Montreal Agglomeration schéma plans, the City of Beaconsfield is reassessing its long-term development needs. It established an advisory committee on land use planning and development, to listen to the citizens in this regard. Because it initially appeared that one favoured initiative was a high-density TOD (transit-oriented development) in Angell Woods, APAW submitted a brief to examine the pros and cons of such a development, in terms of tax revenues, traffic flows and quality of life for West Island citizens. That brief is now available on our website: www.apaw.ca.
Please note that our brief was submitted BEFORE the announcement of the light rail system due to be built over the next few years, connecting the West Island to the downtown public transit system with trains which will run every 15 minutes or so, similar to the metro frequency. The new light rail system makes it even more clear that a development in Angell Woods adjacent to the Beaurepaire AMT station could not truly be characterized as a “TOD”. TOD’s are supposed to attract residents who choose walking and public transport over our standard suburban car-intensive approach. Given the low frequencies of the current Vaudreuil-Hudson AMT line trains, any new residents moving in to condos adjacent to the Beaurepaire station would no doubt still feel the need to own the customary 2 or so cars per household.
The new light rail system is great news for the West Island. It is also good news for Angell Woods.
Thank you as always for your continued support. Community support is what will ultimately save Angell Woods.
Your APAW Executive
You are cordially invited to the Annual General Meeting of the Association for the Protection of Angell Woods
Wednesday, March 16, 7:30 – 9:30 pm
Annexe Herb Linder
303 Beaconsfield Blvd, Beaconsfield
Our guest speaker this year is Richard Gregson, biologist (Fellow of Royal Society of Biology) and past president of Bird Protection Quebec. The conference is entitled:
“The Birds of Angell Woods”
If you are interested in running for the board of directors of APAW, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, March 11, 2016
Report from the Executive
Election of the board of directors
Dear APAW members :
You will by now no doubt have already heard the wonderful news. On October 22, 2015, at a press conference held at the Beaconsfield City Hall, the City of Montreal, on behalf of the Agglomeration Council, announced that it had come to terms with the St. Patrick`s Society for the purchase of its Marian Hall Angell Woods property. The $3.5 million dollar purchase price will come from regional greenspace funds specifically set aside for this purpose, and will allow St. Patrick`s to join the list of former private landowners who have made their “graceful exit” from the Woods. No doubt St. Patrick`s will also put the money to good use, in its other charitable endeavours.
This new conservation lot is directly connected to the conservation lots in the south-west part of Angell Woods currently held by the City of Montreal and the City of Beaconsfield. It is a major piece of the Angell Woods puzzle. The wooded area of the St. Patrick`s lot has long been “off the beaten path” for Angell Woods visitors, and contains some of the most interesting biological diversity of the Woods. It is the only place where you can find stands of cottonwood and staghorn sumac, for example. Many of the 14 endangered species located throughout Angell Woods are also located on this lot. At the press conference, Mr. Russell Copeman, the City of Montreal Executive Committee member responsible for the file, announced that the Marian Hall structure on the southern part of the lot will be demolished, and that the entire lot, from its northern limit down to its southern portion facing Elm avenue, will be set aside for conservation purposes.
The transfer of this 20 acres from private ownership to the City of Montreal will bring to just about half (125 acres out of 250 total acres) the portion of Angell Woods owned either by conservation entities (such as APAW or Ducks Unlimited) or governments (the Province, the City of Montreal and the City of Beaconsfield).
However, you will recall from our February message to you that the 2015 schéma, or regional Montreal zoning plan, has designated approximately 80% of Angell Woods as a regional forest to be protected. You can follow this link to the land use plan, showing that all but the bottom 20% of Angell Woods has been designated for conservation use only: http://ville.montreal.qc.ca/pls/portal/docs/PAGE/PROJ_URBAINS_FR/MEDIA/DOCUMENTS/SCHEMA_06_CHAP3_3.1.PDF
Of the 20% portion of Angell Woods which is NOT regionally zoned for conservation, good chunks of these lands along Elm are now owned, for conservation purposes, by the City of Montreal and the City of Beaconsfield.
The City of Beaconsfield has yet to update its local zoning by-laws, as is required by law, to have them conform with the regional rules. We will be watching this process closely, to make sure that all conservation lands owned by the Cities of Beaconsfield and Montreal are in fact zoned “conservation”. The current elected officials of the Cities of Beaconsfield and now of Montreal have proved to be wonderful conservation partners in this Angell Woods process. We need to consolidate these gains and make sure that no door is left open for future “development land swaps”, once the current elected regimes change.
Hats off to you again, members. Our governments are “doing the right thing” with our money, thanks to decades of respectful but firm lobbying by citizens on the ground. We need to offer them our thanks. This process is going on in municipalities across the Province, but it is clearly “against the grain” for some people. These last steps to solidifying the protection of Angell Woods may in fact be the hardest, but we are almost 90% there. Keep close to the process and stay tuned!
Your APAW Executive
Dear APAW members:
As you have no doubt heard by now, on January 29, 2015, the Agglomeration Council, chaired by Denis Coderre, Mayor of Montreal, passed a regional zoning plan which has the majority of Angell Woods set aside as a conservation area.
This bold and decisive gesture required political courage and Mayor Coderre and his team deserve our thanks and appreciation. So too do Mayor Georges Bourelle and his Beaconsfield Council, who as elected officials together decided upon a path for the Angell Woods file and worked actively and enthusiastically to implement this plan on behalf of their citizens. Getting this measure through the multiple layers of bureaucracy was no easy feat. Congratulations are truly in order. Make sure you thank our local officials when you see them. A special thanks also to the elected officials from previous years, who likewise had bravely pushed this cause along.
At the same time, this zoning change is also due to the long-standing efforts and political pressure applied by YOU, our 1000+ members. You had a vision for the best community use of this treasured forest and YOU were relentless in gradually and respectfully impressing that vision on fellow citizens and elected officials throughout the years.
The context for this change is that the legal structure governing municipal and regional bodies clearly provides that at least every five years, they are entitled, as elected entities, to reassess and sometimes change the permitted use of lands within their territory. Of course, where extensive infrastructure and development investments have been made, a municipality is unlikely to “turn the clock back” and rezone a built area as “green”. However, where the lands have never been developed, it is perfectly permissible for a regional municipal government to change the rules for the future use, or protection, of those lands.
Let’s not forget that this formal process was driven by citizens and community groups right from the beginning. In the fall of 2011, hundreds of briefs were submitted by individuals and environmental groups as part of the public consultation on the supra-regional PMAD (Plan métropolitain d’aménagement et développement). APAW presented a brief, as did many other members of the Green Coalition, calling on the municipal governments to take actions to protect and conserve our last urban green spaces. The result was that the PMAD, as approved by the provincial government, prescribed that Angell Woods was a forest of regional importance, which needed to be protected. The plan just passed by the Agglomeration Council was required by law to “conform” to the terms of the PMAD, just like Beaconsfield will be required by law to amend its bylaws to “conform” to the new agglomeration plan.
There are some important steps left. The Province needs to approve the new agglomeration plan. Beaconsfield needs to adopt new zoning for Angell Woods that complies with the agglomeration plan. Ideally, the remaining private lands now zoned for conservation will be purchased and set aside as a nature reserve, like the Angell Woods nature reserve already managed by APAW. The funds to do so have long been set aside for the moment when agreement is reached. In the meantime, thanks to legal proceedings brought by the concerned landowners, which proceedings led to a court determination that their lands were essentially “undevelopable”, they are not paying municipal taxes on their lands.
There will be noise and bickering, and maybe some attempts to derail the final steps. But your APAW executive will be there for you, quietly but vigilantly working towards our collective goal of preserving the Woods.
In the meantime though, some subdued celebration is in order. Cheers!