The Hampstead real-estate kerfuffle uses “affordable housing” as a distraction from what should be the real issue at hand: the massive rezoning of the property to the detriment of an entire swath of the city. The reality is that the Hampstead project fails a much larger constituency, the population of entire areas of NDG , Cote-St-Luc and especially Hampstead. The 4 story buildings, a human scale, established along Cote-St –Luc Road (with the rare exception) offers a quality of space that is precious and must be preserved: once gone it will never return.

Hampstead, whose council will not give a home owner a zoning change for a 5% increase in the area allowed for a flat roof because of the “precedent” it might set, is prepared, with the stroke of a pen, to rezone an entire property from 4 stories to 10: windfall profits for the developer/owner with some SHORT TERM tax benefit to the city which will soon be lost through increased wear and tear and extra services required or probably just squandered on some political vanity project (any “worthwhile project” would be welcome by the well-heeled Hampstead residents, even if accompanied by a tax increase). The owners of every building along Cote-St-Luc Road would be rightfully demanding the same treatment and zoning changes once the precedent is set.

Anyone who doubts what negative impact a building of that size would have on an entire area should just look at the Beaumont condo project at Clanranald & Cote-St-Luc Rd. Approved under the Applebaum administration (where is he now?) abetted by a “snow-job” of a city planning study: a developers “wet-dream” of dollar signs when the zoning was upped to the current size and density. The buzz words and marketing double speak, a Madison Ave marvel, used to justify what was just a gift to the property owner/ developer was astounding. The building design was leading edge “architectural transparency”: there was an ABSOLUTE NECCESSITY for the inclusion of a huge grocery store to help “stem” residents from shopping in other boroughs, leakage it was called (heaven forbid some might travel to Westmount or Cote-St-Luc to shop for groceries or even nearby Monkland). The typical green-washing was covered by the developer being “forced”, by the city, to provide some bike racks, (a few hundred dollars), along with many other bromides used to justify the project. The reality, a developer reaping millions in profits through the stroke of a pen. In addition to the excessive height, the new building hugs the sidewalk and compound an unpleasantness reminiscent of the concrete jungle of Griffintown.

The Hampstead project would be history repeating itself once again. The zoning should not be changed to suit the short term profitability of the developer by changing either height limitations and/or site coverage. A visit to Hampstead, shows it already has an incredible tax base and any increase touted is a red herring of a justification. If the developer thinks he can make sense of a “redevelopment” project within the existing 4 story zoning, so be it, and more power to them: the existing tenants will have the compensation to which they are legally entitled in the province of Quebec like any others in similar circumstances. If the project is deemed unviable, tenants will live in their apartments, as before, having the full force of the law requiring landlords to fully maintain their buildings in a proper state and a powerful rental board to back them up. In either case the true winners will be the entire greater neighbourhood, as it should be, who will not be confronted by yet another sore thumb in the cityscape and diminished quality of life.

Mark Lipson

NDG

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