By Carmen Fabio
Describing what would amount to ‘substantial’ revenues for the Town of Beaconsfield, Mayor Georges Bourelle announced April 27 that council is considering installing an electronic billboard on the south side of Highway 20 eastbound near the intersection of Beaurepaire Drive and City Lane.
“What were you guys thinking?” askedresident Ike Partington, first up to the microphone for the 30-minute question period at the monthly meeting. Describing the proposed project as a ‘monster’ billboard, she said, “I would hope that you would either allow questions when this comes up on the agenda or you will fully explain what it’s all about.”
Bourelle said the agenda item was a notice of motion to amend the existing zoning By-law 720 to allow billboards in that particular part of the city.
“The city is finalizing the project right now, certainly in the process of negotiating – hopefully – the finalization of the project for a signage that would be installed there,” said Bourelle. “This project will bring substantial yearly revenues that could have a significant impact on the city’s budget.” Bourelle said council had a duty and responsibility to present it to Beaconsfield residents, who could, ostensibly, be critical if council had not pursued such an opportunity. He iterated the project would be, “very meaningful in terms of revenue.”
Questioned after the meeting, Bourelle would not disclose specifics in terms of revenue or of the scope of the signage other than to confirm its proposed location near the city’s public works department. A public consultation is scheduled for May 25 in which the project will be presented in full detail with a question and answer period. “The benefits will be discussed in more detail,” he added, saying a vote would take place 30 days after the public consultation.
Partington questioned how the project was already in the ‘final stages’ without prior consultation of citizens to which Bourelle said council could not discuss projects in negotiation until an agreement was reached. She implored council to consider the potential drawbacks to such a project including light pollution and visual pollution on Highway 20. “This is no small notice board,” said Partington, citing the town’s strict rules concerning signage. “It really has a huge impact on a city.”
While Bourelle said he agreed with the potential drawbacks of the project, they needed to be weighed in relation to the ensuing benefits it might bring.
In a subsequent email sent by Partington to residents and media, she states her councillor confirmed the billboard’s dimensions would measure 20 by 40 feet and would reach a height of 50-feet. Partington lives in District 5, territory of Councillor Roger Moss.
Moss didn’t confirm the dimensions to Your Local Journal but did say, “These are highway billboards so they’re certainly bigger than what you would see on (municipal) information boards.” Moss said the current tax revenue base in the city is restricted with approximately 90 per cent of taxes coming from residents. “We need to consider new and different proposals. We don’t have an airport or mega shopping centres, or head offices. This (proposal) is interesting but again, finances are not the only consideration.”
New council meeting rules
Prior to opening the meeting City Clerk Nathalie Libersan-Laniel read a statement indicating that according to By-law Beac-001, under the rules of conduct and the regular meetings of the council, that, “No photographic cameras, movie cameras, recorders, and similar apparatus, except those used by the City Clerk, may be used without the mayor’s authorization.” This follows last month’s meeting in which resident and former District 6 Councillor Rhonda Massad was told she could only pose questions at the end of the meeting given her freelance contributions to The Suburban newspaper.
Massad said the stipulation was, “… a move in the wrong direction in terms of transparency as the world moves towards recording (municipal) meetings by webcast and the recordings can serve to protect both the councillors as well as attending journalists.”
On behalf of council, Mayor Bourelle extended congratulations to Beaconsfield resident Canadian Armed Forces Major Richard Gratton who recently received a Governor General’s Caring Canadian award presented in Ottawa for his outstanding contribution to Heroes Park, an idea he conceived while deployed in Afghanistan in 2010. The park occupies the former Shore Park and has since been transformed into a space for people to gather and reflect on the service and sacrifices made by military and emergency personnel. The park was inaugurated last October in the presence of Canada’s Governor General David Johnston.