I am a Hampstead resident and I am new to the local Hampstead political scene. On November 24, Hampstead will hold a referendum on whether to accept the 10-storey building proposed to replace the existing four-storey structures on Côte St Luc Rd. near Ellerdale. But we all know that this is about the fate of all the buildings on the strip and that the outcome here will set the precedent for all future projects.
Given my pro-development nature, I am surprised at myself for not only supporting the “No” side, but becoming its voice. A developer will obviously seek maximum profits and I understand that. However, I feel the municipal council’s role (including the Mayor’s) is to temper those ambitions so as to ensure that the end result is well integrated into the neighborhood and respects the character of the town. Permanent decisions that will affect the whole town should not be dictated by the profits of the developer.
Let me address directly the Mayor’s main argument in support of the project in its current form. The Mayor argues that this is all about much needed money for the town. I attended the last council meeting where Councillor Jack Edery informed those present that Hampstead has a $7 million surplus, including the $1 million projected for 2019.
Despite the town already being in a comfortable financial position, I would never argue against more tax dollars, even if the $145,000 for this one project amounts to a paltry $20 per resident … or $200 for 10 new buildings … But the question remains, at what cost?
Here is my main financial point: A six-storey building which would be more in line with the character of the town would bring similar tax benefits to the town. It is unreasonable to argue that a six-storey building cannot be profitable, especially given the fact that many of these building owners have owned their land for 20 years and more. Six-storey buildings are built every year in Montreal with success and financial gain.
I am also against irresponsible development. There has been no traffic study specific to the town of Hampstead. How will having eight to 10 more buildings of 10 -12 storeys affect our streets? The vast majority of the current tenants use public transport. In fact, the current building houses only eight parking spots, contrasted with the 89 spots proposed. These new commuters will be competing with all of Hampstead for access to Decarie. There are numerous projects waiting in the wings to follow suit compounding the issue. There is already too much traffic and this is being ignored. I brought this to the Mayor’s attention at the last meeting and he dismissed this point, insisting the new luxury tenants will use public transport as well. This is absolutely irresponsible and unreasonable. We need a proper traffic study.
Lastly, and close to my heart as a moral point, the existing tenants, many of them elderly, have been offered a short deal. I appreciate the City of Montreal approach towards affordable housing in conjunction with new development. They deserve a better deal.
This vote will set the precedent for the entire strip. We will have to live with this outcome forever. By voting “No” we bring everyone back to the table to agree on a more acceptable future.