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APAW Newsletter

Angell Woods and Elections 2017

It is municipal election time again. Angell Woods is and has always been, first and foremost, a municipal issue. It is about a local community choosing the highest and best use for a piece of land that never got developed. A piece of land which is much loved in its current state: an ecological jewel which serves as a key element of “quality of life” for countless Montreal and West Island residents.

Municipalities control zoning, residential infrastructure and land use rules. It is municipalities that will decide what happens to Angell Woods.

It is quite popular among the Beaconsfield candidates to be “in favour of Angell Woods”. We have to push the candidates to be more coherent and informed on the Angell Woods issue. The details matter.

Angell Woods is not done. At the regional level, most of Angell Woods has been zoned for conservation. That is great news. The current Mayor,the vast majority of his councillors and their administration have done some excellent work in getting this piece through.

But the trained real estate eye will note that the parts zoned for conservation at the agglomeration level are mostly undevelopable anyway – either due to insufficient access or because they are wetlands.

The regional authorities have left it to Beaconsfield to decide what to do with the 15-20% of Angell Woods which could realistically be the site of future residential projects. Beaconsfield, for a number of reasons, has yet to do this.

So we need to ask our candidates – what is your vision of the 15-20% that is in their hands?

Townhouses have been cropping up throughout Beaconsfield in its last vacant spaces. They sell. Is that the vision we want – a string of high density townhouses crammed along the edge of the woods, “just because we can”? To cooperate with the developers to put those townhouses in place, the City would need to actively choose to bring in new sewage and other infrastructure into Angell Woods. Once those pipes are in, the rest of Angell Woods will never be safe. With the stroke of a pen, the “economic imperative” would raise its head, as a means to justify the investment in the infrastructure in the first place. The areas zoned for conservation would be rolled back, piece by piece. If the infrastructure capacity is there, it will be used.

Ask yourselves – who are the winners in this scenario? Who are the losers? Will our taxes go down? Will waiting times at the Woodland traffic light decrease? How will the increased traffic levels affect safety at the intersection?

We cannot let our candidates off the hook on this one. They need to tell us where they stand on the last 15-20%. The court judgement which came out this past summer involving APAW, Beaconsfield and a litigious landowner has demonstrated, once and for all and without a doubt, that municipalities have the power to stand up to developers if they think it is in the community interest to protect greenspace for their citizens. Other cases, notably the Meadowbrook judgment which came out last month, share this conclusion. The old arguments about “disguised expropriation” and real estate rights trumping municipal zoning decisions no longer hold water. And no one is paying taxes anymore on these lands, based on an assumed “development value”. If you hear a candidate using those terms, either they are ill-informed or they have a vision for the 15-20% which involves a whole lot of new townhouses. That is not “supporting Angell Woods”…

The Beaconsfield zoning decision on this key 15-20% is long past due. It will have to be decided at some point. The candidates we elect in 2017 as our community representatives will be the ones who decide. It would be good to know before the election where they stand.

We have to support our candidates. It takes guts to run for public office. However, we are entitled to ask questions and to focus the debate. Please get out and vote!

Your APAW Executive

APAW Newsletter 2017

La version française suit la version anglaise. Merci!
Dear APAW members:
On August 7, 2017, the judgement of the Superior Court of Quebec in the case of Yale Properties Ltd. v. City of Beaconsfield was released. Your Association intervened in the case, in support of the City. Yale Properties is the owner of the 3.5 million square foot lot situated in Angell Woods between the City of Beaconsfield dog park area on the east and the Lakeview Boulevard properties on the west. The Yale lot represents approximately 30% of Angell Woods and is one of the two remaining lots (representing together approximately 50% of the woods) which are not owned by governments or conservation entities. The Yale lot is private property.
The judgement follows a 2 week trial in March of this year. The judgement itself is 45 pages long and is primarily made up of an in depth analysis of the complicated relations between Yale, Beaconsfield and APAW over the period between 2010 and 2017. The court acknowledged that Angell Woods has been an important preoccupation of the community since at least the 1990’s. Among the facts examined in great detail were the background to the passage by Beaconsfield Council in the spring of 2010 of a “Control By-law”, which restricted development of the Woods until Council could figure out an appropriate zoning plan. The Court also reviewed the context and proceedings behind the abortive “PPU Development Plan” rolled out by the Council in August 2013 (and the extremely negative public reaction to the plan). It was the combined effect of the Control By-law, together with the failure to move forward on the proposed local PPU Development Plan, which has meant that more regional initiatives (the PMAD and the Agglomeration Council and City of Montreal schema, or urban plans) have since resulted in Angell Woods effectively being zoned for conservation.
In the judge’s careful analysis, she found no evidence of “bad faith” on the part of the City; nor did she find any “collusion” between Beaconsfield and APAW which aimed to block Yale Properties from developing their lot. In the court’s view, Beaconsfield played by the rules, listened appropriately to its citizens and acted on a very legitimate goal: the protection of the environment.
The request by Yale to have the Control By-law declared inapplicable to them, on the grounds of bad faith and collusion, was completely rejected by the judge. The court found that there had been no “disguised expropriation” of the Yale lot. As well, in seeking to protect the environment, the City may have reduced the “economic value” of the Yale lot, but that is completely within the bounds of what a municipality is allowed to do. As confirmed explicitly in the judgement, protection of the environment is now a fundamental part of Canadian values.
The Yale lot has no “grandfather rights” to be developed. It is subject to whatever zoning rules the various levels of government prescribe from time to time.
However, as a separate issue, the judge agreed with Yale that citizens have been illegally trespassing on their private property. The court has ordered this trespassing to stop. As well, APAW has been ordered to publicize this element of the judgement to you – our members. APAW also needs to take down the few remaining signs in the Woods which show a trail map with trails extending over Yale’s property or bearing its logo. The same has to be done on our website. We will of course comply with the court order.
The full text of Madame Justice Mainville’s judgement is available on our website (www.apaw.ca). As ordered by the court, we draw your attention in particular to pages 42 and 43, which contain the specific orders regarding the respect of Yale’s private property, as well as Annex A to her judgement, which shows the location of the Yale lot (see the attached document for pages 42-43 and Annex A).
As you our members know so well, the Angell Woods conservation story is a long and complicated tale. Twenty years ago, no parts of the Woods were protected; now half of the woods are in public or conservation hands and most of the remaining half is zoned for conservation.
We will see what impact this most recent judgement has on the “graceful exit” of Yale, which is the profound wish of the community. So far, there have been four graceful exits from Angell Woods by similar development-minded landowners; we have two to go.
The challenge for our local governments remains: make a deal to bring these last two lots into the public conservation domain, under extremely difficult circumstances.
However, as has now been confirmed by the courts, the City has been doing everything right so far. Keep up the good work, Beaconsfield and Montreal! We have your back.
Your APAW Executive
pages 42-43- Annexe A jugement Yale Properties c. Ville de Beaconsfield et APBA-APAW

pages 42-43- Annexe A jugement Yale Properties c. Ville de Beaconsfield et APBA-APAW

pages 42-43- Annexe A jugement Yale Properties c. Ville de Beaconsfield et APBA-APAW

Judgement Yale Properties Ltd. v. City of Beaconsfield

500-17-065469-119 Yale Properties Ltd c. Ville de Beaconsfield (7-08-2017)

Decision – Conseil de presse du Québec

Décision – Conseil de presse du Québec