Commercial property owners in Verdun will soon be able demolish heritage buildings in a bad state of repair or at the back of a property without a Site Planning and Architectural Integration (SPAI) review.
“Is this not an invitation to all landlords to stop maintaining their buildings so that they can develop the land for one project or another,” said Gilles Laberge. “There has not been an inventory of buildings in the back of lots, so I’m surprised that the city is so ready to purge them.”
The amendment to bylaw 1700-88 was initially presented to Verdun’s urban planning, housing and heritage committee. Ann Guy, Benoit Malette and Pascale Tremblay sit on the committee. Researcher David Lamontagne-Métivier was also present at the meeting.
The public heard about the change during a 15-minute public consultation prior to the last Borough Council Meeting, February 7. Ann Guy was the only elected official who heard resident comments. She and her colleagues passed the bylaw unanimously less than half an hour later. The change takes effect after the city of Montreal approves it, perhaps next month. (The issue doesn’t appear on March agendas for city council, the executive committee nor the agglomeration council.)
In addition to his comments about owners, Laberge, who is a historian, raised concerns about whether the bylaw amendment would allow the Douglas Institute to tear down an unused root cellar that is one of the last remaining agricultural buildings in Verdun. He didn’t get an answer.
In a later email to the Suburban, Verdun spokesperson Francine Morin wrote that the borough “has established that no 100% commercially used building on its territory has any heritage value.”
She also confirmed that the Douglas Institute applied for a permit to tear the root cellar down in 2010, but Verdun’s planning advisory committee refused the request.
Marie France Coutu, a communications officer with the Douglas Institute, says the organization no longer plans to demolish the circa-1920 building. “In our mandate, there is no money set aside for heritage buildings, but we are conscious that these buildings have value to the community,” she said. “Our intention is to leave it as it is. It’s locked and secured. We don’t want to get rid of it.”
Residents are relieved that an important Verdun landmark might still be saved, but some still complain about the way Verdun handled the public consultation.
“How can we have faith in our elected officials when they treat us like this,” said Fabiola Renaud. “They invite us for one subject and when we arrive, they present something different. The avis told us that the Mayor would explain the changes to the bylaw, but he wasn’t even there. Then after they made us work, M. Malette didn’t even have time to tell them what we said before they passed the amendment anyway. They’re laughing at us.”
(A version of this article appeared on March 14 on page 7 of The Suburban’s City Edition.)