On July 7 the North Hatley Town Council opened up its monthly meeting for more than two hours to respond to citizen questions about any topic, with an emphasis on the proposed development by M. Laliberte, who has purchased a concentration of lots in the town centre.
A good number of North Hatley Club members attended the meeting and were pleased by the openness of the Council to a variety of expressions of support and concern by both year-round and summer residents about the proposed project. The Council has since circulated a thoughtful response to questions that were raised that we will forward when we have an electronic copy.
There was apparent consensus in the room that some form of development in the town would be a good thing, bringing North Hatley the opportunity to reverse a long term decline in the permanent population and the prospect of a stronger economic future. No one present suggested that nothing should happen, but many voiced major concerns about the nature, size, scale, look and impact of the proposed project. Council Members repeatedly urged citizens to voice their concerns in writing at email@example.com.
The primary concern was the prospect of 230 units, including 150 units for seniors, that could potentially double the year-round population of the town without any real understanding of the unintended consequences.
People wondered if there are indeed 150 seniors who could fill, and continue to repopulate, all those independent senior units.
People expressed concern about massing in general and in particular the prospect of a five story building in the context of one and two story surrounding structures, citing both attractive and disturbing examples near the town beach in Magog.
Many suggested a commitment to architectural review, with either a peer panel or a formal competition.
People worried about springtime flooding and wanted to be sure that the 10-20 year and 20-100 year floodplain borders are well-defined and enforced.
People asked for formal transparency about the review process, specifically who was going to be in the position to make decisions and at what point. Many agreed that a formal document that laid out the steps necessary to moving forward would be helpful.
The Mayor and Council were clear that a revision of the flood plain code would be necessary to moving ahead and that if it were denied that the project would be dead; some expressed an opinion that the town should have an opinion on the floodplain issue before it is reviewed by MRC Memphremagog.
Attendees suggested that the Town should use its leverage at every possible moment to both encourage and limit M. Laliberté; many recognized the delicacy of the relationship. North Hatley both needs M. Laliberté and needs to do all it can to ensure that the project finds an appropriate balance between economic development and environmental stewardship. Some asked if the project could be done in stages.
Others suggested that it would be unfortunate if the Town changed the rules for this project but resisted reasonable proposals from other, existing, citizens.
There was some concern about how eminent domain or expropriation was or is going to be exercised as the process moves forward.
We believe the Council members who asked that people comment, and we urge members to do so but hope that the responses can be individual and not formulaic, so we are not suggesting particular language.
We believe that constructive comments about the Council, the project and M. Laliberté will be heard. The stakes are high; a reasonable project could be good for the town; an ill-conceived effort could fail with an empty white elephant, or, perhaps worse, succeed but promote the kind of lower-end development that wouldn’t respect the beauty, heritage, simplicity and charm that makes our town so special.
The Council will be reviewing comments posted at firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be great if you could copy one of us – email@example.com or Twilcox@bcf.org or firstname.lastname@example.org – so that we can get some sense of what the Council is hearing
Thanks so much,
Brian, Tom and Jamie