The fate of Angell Woods could be decided by the courts, after agglomeration< council voted, Jan. 29, in favour of changing the zoning of a large tract of overgrown
Beaconsfield farmland from residential to conservation.
“Angell Woods is now permanently and officially protected as a regional park,”
crowed Mayor Georges Bourelle in a statement, despite the fact that most of the land
there is privately owned.
Bourelle told reporters that the matter must next be ratified by the Quebec
government, which has 60 days to approve the new Agglo urban development plan.
“I’m pleased that a strong step has been taken to save the woods, but at the same
time, it is never truly conserved while it remains in private hands,” demurred
Beaconsfield Councilor Pierre Demers.
“It’s good news for people who want Angell Woods conserved,” he acknowledged,
“but at the end of the day, this is a zoning change. The land itself is still very much
privately owned and will remain so until a fair price is mutually agreed upon.”
“There has been a lot of discussion of willing buyers,” Demers told The Suburban.
“Now we need willing sellers.”
He added that Beaconsfield had, for 30 years, resisted the temptation to rezone
because of the cost of defending the move before the courts. Now, the city is relying
in Montreal’s much deeper pockets to shield it from litigation.
“Precedents had been set that this would be a form of disguised expropriation,”
Demers explained. “It would have exposed Beaconsfield to lawsuits. What’s different
this time is that Montreal has decided to face those lawsuits that, in my opinion, will
surely come as a result of this zoning change.”
According to Diana Shahmoon, who represents one of the largest landowners, Seda
Holdings, the dispute could long ago have been settled amicably. She observed
that the agglo’s rezoning measure has dramatically undermined the market value
of property that, for more than a half-century, had been zoned — and taxed — as
“Illegally taking my assets is no less an act of theft just because it is done by the government, and this designation will condemn all of us to a lengthy and costly legal fight in order to protect my property rights,” she warned.