Dear North Hatley Town Council leaders and candidates,
I have come to North Hatley for 70 years as a summer resident and although I am unable to vote in this upcoming election, I hope to suggest to you the importance of proper planning and design for the future of the village of North Hatley.
My hope is that the new council will empower the CCUP to propose a set of design and building guidelines for the village to be approved by the council. A set of consistent regulations for which each owner could adhere. These regulations and guidelines for substantial rehabilitation or new construction within the village should be established and approved according to the results of the Strategic Planning Committee that were recently put in place.
My hope is that the town council would authorize the CCUP to propose a set of building guidelines such as:
- FAR (Floor Area Ratio, i.e. the ratio between the size of land and a proposed building as a measure to determine the size and mass of a new building);
- historic design integration;
- consistent set-backs from the street and property lines, and height limits.
This process of establishing the guidelines would include public input.
I also hope that the CCUP be the authorized body to administer the design and approval process for each development, utilizing the approved set of development guidelines. These parameters are essential to keep the historic nature of the village and to allow all current land owners to work off a similar set of rules.
I just returned to the village after a Covid-imposed two-year absence to find a new garage (with apartment) built on Magog Road close to my home. In the past, I had inquired about additions on my property to build a garage and I was told I had to conform to set-backs from the road that would make any structure out of compliance.
What changed? Is there now a new set of rules?
A goal for all leaders of the village is to develop guidelines that are consistent over time. They need to ensure transparency and fair play. We need to trust that our leaders are above individual persuasion from eager land owners or developers who make promises that are often not kept.
In my professional past at Harvard University, I worked to build multi-family housing for graduate students in a community with established set of design, construction and zoning regulations. If, however, there was a request for a variance to these rules, there was a public review process before the local Planning Board. This board made a binding decision to approve or disapproved the variance request.
In short, there was a process and a set of rules that all owners or developers had to follow. Everyone was treated the same and all reviews were made public.
We are at a pivotal time in our history and if we do not establish a consistent and thoughtful set of guidelines with public input for our future development then we are in danger of losing the essence of our village that has attracted many families for years, as well as new home owners and visiting tourists.
Thank you for your consideration.
Susan K Keller, Magog Road, North Hatley.
Comments on M. Veillette’s reply to Paul St- Pierre:
Unfortunately it is disappointing that M. Veillette is proposing to carry on a similar dialog we have been receiving from this council for many years.
We have been dealing with the opinions of outside lawyers and consultants, essentially on the actions the council proposes, without any real contribution from us taxpayers.
It is hard to understand that his proposed committees of village residential professionals will be seriously influential, in view of the fact that such a committee, the CCUP, headed by Mr Veillette, voted against the Connaught renovations, and yet he permitted the council to overrule the CCUP; …he could have resigned in protest!
A better approach would be to: slow down, have meaningful debate including those affected, …have a series of several public consultations, including a referendum on serious issues, to which the council acts on, … only WITH public consent.
One might hope that gone are the days of a 200 person public meeting where the council only hears what they want to hear, dismisses the majority opinion, and implements the program anyway!
Yes, it may be inefficient, but we are spending public monies, and we have had far too much opinionated poor judgement from past councils.
In summary, it is truly important to elect a council which respects the citizens enough, to solicit public opinion, before proposing legislation, and allowing time for public commentary, before it gets to a vote on council.
Had this been the procedure, we would have avoided, the Connaught council veto, retained the NHRS public service commitment, and saved hundreds of thousand dollars on the misguided flood zone condo project.
It is up to us to correct these mistakes and on November 7th is the opportunity to do so!
My fear is that unless we do, we will lose the current administration staff who are still learning their proper roll from a council who does not understand it.
Don Watt, Magog Road, North Hatley