The planned Habitation Vieux Moulin seniors’ residence in the old Allion School at 5th and Edouard faces its biggest test this week. If enough people sign a register at City Hall between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 21, the project will face a referendum in December or could be halted entirely. The rules for the register and referendum, if needed, are overseen by Quebec’s Chief Electoral Officer and managed by Lasalle Borough secretary Marc Morin.
“If 177 people sign the register, I report to the councillors at the next meeting on October 3. Then it’s up to them what happens,” said Morin. “Lasalle holds referendums rarely. I think they’ve only held one once or twice since I’ve been here. If there’s a lot of objection, they may choose to halt the project.”
They opposition comes from residents in La Village des Rapides, which lays between 1st and 9th avenues, and between Centrale and Lasalle boulevards and used to be known as Le Bronx. They say a register for a referendum is the only way they can influence councillors to consider their needs.
“The city has had this in the works since 2009 but they announced it first to residents on April 26,” said David Pryde, who lives next door to the former school. “They passed the flyers to announce the consultation on Friday of the long weekend and the meeting was during game six of the playoffs, which shows that the minimum of consultation was being done.”
A closure of a school during a mini-baby boom in the neighbourhood seems short-sighted, says Pryde, but he’s most concerned about the size of the project in terms of height and number of residences. He says plans call for only 23 parking spots for 93 apartments and there’s no space for adapted transport and emergency vehicle pickups. He’s also upset about promoters pitching the project as a way to allow current residents to stay in the neighbourhood as they aged. “At one of the meetings, the mayor admitted that Lasalle residents would get no priority on spaces available,” he said. “This is just misinformation, they’re selling.”
One silver lining about the whole experience has been neighbours get to know one another. One of the neighbours Pryde’s met since the process started is Sylvie Clement, who is equally dismayed about the plans, but for different reasons. “We are all cottages and duplexes, and they’re going to destroy the whole architectural character of the neighbourhood,” says Clement, who’s lived in Village des Rapides for 23 years. “When this neighbourhood began, there were a lot of chalets, so that’s why there’s such a disparity of homes. But the height is always no more than two stories. After this, what will stop them from adding more buildings that are equally high?”
Like Pryde, Clement expressed concern that neighbours weren’t consulted on the project while it was being developed so they could help determine its direction. “They spent two and half years working on this project without speaking to any of the residents concerned because they don’t want us to meddle in their project. This is a neighbourhood where everyone lives in their home and they’re changing our environment. We have to remind our elected officials sometimes that they represent everyone, not just a few developers.”
The residents have a blog that details their concerns at http://projetallion.blogspot.com.