Mayor Georges Bourelle told The Suburban that while the two areas the city are seeking protection are not grand in size, they are important ecosystems that include sugar maple groves, bitter nut hickory and red ash trees.
If the land is designated for safekeeping, the two portions of land “would be kept by the ministry of Resources so there would be no cost for taxpayers,” Bourelle said.
The mayor sees the two parcels of land designated for protection the same concept “as heritage homes are protected for the community” from undue changes or renovations that must be approved first.
Ultimately, the city would like “to protect all of the woods and the best option will be to come to an agreement with the owners and then acquire the land through the city of Montreal’s agglomeration council that sets aside a fund for acquiring green spaces throughout the island,” said Bourelle.
In terms of development in Angell Woods, Bourelle said that “development is off the table and out of the discussion.”
For Sarah Blustain and her mother Diana Shahmoon of Seda Holdings, a company that is one of the two main owners of the land, the latest move by the city to name the two portions of land to be protected, “we didn’t even know the action was going to be taken,” said Blustain. “We want to negotiate in a transparent way but we have to be able to get market value for the land.”
The mayor’s decision to take development off of the table came as a surprise to Blustain who said she “knows that there is a popular will to preserve the land but the city cannot afford to due to financial constraints. Originally, the city was going to allow for some development in the southern part of the land, allowing the northern part to be preserved, but Bourelle switched his position on this.”
During the last municipal election campaign, Bourelle posted a response on social media to an article in another West Island publication about Angell Woods. In September 2013, Bourelle wrote publicly that “I would favour a partial maximum two-storey residential development of Angell Woods at the south end with proper by-law controls and negotiations with the private landowners that will ensure 80% of the Woods is kept as a preserve, as long as a traffic solution for Elm and Woodland crossing is conceived and/or negotiated and implemented by council before any development takes place. It is totally unrealistic and a cop out to expect the landowners and developers to come up with an acceptable alternative at the cost for the Woodland intersection. Instead we will end up with more lawsuits, legal costs and loss of potential revenue for the city.”
Bourelle also told The Suburban in the September 11th, 2013 edition, that “as far as I am concerned, a two-storey residential condo development such as has been proposed (the 80/20 split) , falls within my vision of acceptable densification in Beaconsfield.”
Menashi Mashaal of Yale Properties, the other main landowner, feels that throughout the last few years, “we have been left in the dark” as there have been no formal negotiations between the city and the company that owns roughly half of the 100-odd hectares in Angell Woods.
Because of the current interim bylaw imposed by the city a few years ago, the owners cannot develop the land nor can the city collect tax revenue from the landowners, Mashaal said that “because of the current case pending” he could not comment on what Yale Properties will do next.
Blustain believes that the city should develop some of Angell Woods as a “way for the city to afford the land. Is the city really trying to buy it?”
“Hopefully the city and the owners can come to an agreement,” said Bourelle. “But I’m not sure if they are willing sellers.”