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

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