Impacted residents ‘uncertain about outcome’ of Laval’s planned Pie-X Park expansion

City using ‘Right of pre-emption’ legal move to appropriate homes and portions of land

During last week’s Laval city council meeting, elected officials had no apologies for a group of residents from an area near Pie-X Park in west-end Laval, where there is growing consternation over a plan by the city to expand access to the park through the purchase or appropriation of nearby private properties.

One of the pedestrian entranceways into Pie-X Park in Chomedey where the City of Laval has plans to expand the width up to 30 feet by claiming portions of the private properties on each side.

Petition raises questions

Up to 400 nearby residents have signed a petition opposing a significant part of the city’s $24 million plan to carry out a long overdue refurbishing of the park. They want the city to at least postpone the project, currently scheduled to begin as early as this year, so that some of the impact can be reconsidered.

Christian Veilleux, who has lived on Olivar-Asselin St. for more than 30 years, is one of 16 residents who received legal notices last summer from the city, advising them to vacate 12-foot spaces on their property next to several fenced pedestrian walkways leading from the street into Pie-X Park.

City claims encroachment

“While planning the work, we became aware that your installations encroach on the City of Laval’s property and infringe the rights that the City holds on the lot,” states the notice from the city. The residents were given up to Sept. 1 last year to sign and return a consent form stating that they agreed to the conditions.

In early November last year, additional notices were sent to the affected residents, informing them that land survey posts were going to be installed to establish the exact property limits. Fences and hedges belonging to property owners which the city claims are on municipal property will be demolished, according to the notices.

For the greater good, says city

Four walkways that lead into Pie-X Park are located adjacent to the following streets: Marguerite-Bourgeoys, Olivar-Asselin, Cardinal, Bernard and Brien. A fifth laneway between Adolphe-Chapleau and Coursol is apparently not included in the project.

Some of the owners of homes around Chomedey’s Pie-X Park who stand to be most impacted by the city’s plan to improve the space by taking part of their land to improve access to the park. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Laval News)

The city claims it needs to enlarge the walkways in order to make them more secure and accessible for the population in general, including those who may be physically-challenged or who suffer from limited mobility.

In so doing, the city expects to enlarge the walkways (which currently vary in width from 6 to 10 feet) to 30 feet, while enhancing the grounds with additional lawn and trees.

In addition to these claims, the city also served notice last summer that it was placing a “reserve” status on four houses located near the north and south entrances to Pie-X Park as an option to eventually purchase in order to add space in the park. This was done under a revised provincial law (“Right of pre-emption”) for municipalities.

No consultation, residents say

Christian Veilleux of Olivar-Asselin St. in Chomedey is helping to lead residents’ efforts to contest some of the City of Laval’s plans for Pie-X Park. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Laval News)

Among other things, the residents complain they were never consulted by the city. In response, Mayor Stéphane Boyer maintained during the February city council meeting (he wasn’t present during the March meeting due to illness) that the city has various ways of consulting its constituents, and that a form of consultation had indeed taken place.

Although he praised the park renewal project overall, Parti Laval councillor for Fabreville Claude Larochelle said during last week’s council meeting that he was surprised the city was using the Right of pre-emption clause for single-family homes. He maintained the law is being improperly used by the city, since its intended purpose was to secure properties which had fallen into disrepair and were dangerous because of owner neglect.

Adding to housing shortage

For their part, the residents who would stand to eventually lose their homes claim the city will be doing more harm than good, because of the current housing shortage.

Stating Action Laval’s view of the issue, St-Vincent-de-Paul city councillor Paolo Galati said his party objects to the stance taken by the city. “This is a good project,” he said, although he added that the mayor “really missed the mark and failed in his duty as regards consultation.”

Sainte-Dorothée councillor Ray Khalil (who is vice-president of the executive-committee) maintained that among the various legal tools available in cases like these to the city (including expropriation, property reserve and servitude) the Right of pre-emption “is the mildest,” he said.

However, he offered no apologies to the home owners who stand to be impacted. Laval-les-Îles city councillor Nicholas Borne who is handling the dossier maintained the city has every right to use the Right of pre-emption as it sees fit. But again, no apology to those directly affected.

Residents still uncertain

In a note last week before our deadline to The Laval News, Christian Veilleux said a recent closed-door meeting between the residents and their city councillor Sandra El-Helou seemed to end optimistically. “But there was no firm commitment for the future, except that Mrs El-Helou will do her best to improve things and come back to us,” said Veilleux.

“The meeting was supposed to last 30 minutes, but lasted 70 minutes,” he continued, “which we considered positively, even if we have not had sufficient time to explore thoroughly all issues. Overall, we exited the building with mixed feelings: happy of the discussions, but uncertain about the outcome.”