Phyllis Lambert condemns Meadowbrook development

Originally published in The Suburban, Wednesday, March 10, 2004

‘1,200 coffins’

Meadowbrook development risks lives: CCA head

by Joel Goldenberg

Lack of emergency access to a potential housing development on the Lachine portion of the Meadowbrook golf course would risk thousands of lives, architect Phyllis Lambert told a crowded public meeting on ways to preserve the 57-hectare site.

“It’s absolutely insensate (lacking sense) that there should be a proposal to build on this land,” Lambert told the audience of several hundred gathered in the former Montreal West town hall.

The area is surrounded by heavily-travelled railroad tracks, and the only access to the site is through Côte St. Luc road in Côte St. Luc.

“A proposal to build 1,200 houses on Meadowbrook is a proposal to build 1,200 coffins,” said the Canadian Centre for Architecture head. “This development would put at risk as many people that died in the World Trade Centre [terrorist attack] in New York.

“It is totally irresponsible for any government, for any city [to allow this].”

Lambert quoted a December 1989 MUC report on the adjacent industrial park in the former Ville St. Pierre which found the area is difficult to access in case of disaster and lacks emergency exits, and is not appropriate for the production of toxic and other dangerous products.

Last week’s meeting was called in light of soil tests being conducted in recent months on the Lachine portion of the site, in preparation for the resumption of decade-old plans to build high-density housing on the site. The former Côte St. Luc council zoned its half of the site residential, prompting a $20 million lawsuit by the site’s developers that has lain dormant.

The megacity, which favours preserving the site as greenspace, is negotiating with the landowners and developers for a possible land swap with a city-owned property.

Former councillor Glenn Nashen, who attended the meeting, said safety and security concerns remain unanswered, pointing out that the original plan for development called for shatter-proof glass on homes in case of rail derailment.

“We have already built right up to the tracks on many fronts of Côte St. Luc and homeowners have signalled their frustration with noise and air pollution from the train yards,” he said. “So what is our enthusiasm of moving more homes up against commuter rail lines and feeder tracks that will only bring more complaints and more frustration in years to come?

“Our protracted negotiations with CP Rail since the creation of the Côte St. Luc Standing Committee looking into rail-related problems has met with delays, unanswered questions and legal wrangling. Is CP Rail really interested in the concerns of neighbouring property owners?”

Other speakers urged the public to pressure politicians to preserve Meadowbrook and increase greenspaces on the island.

“There are many examples in Montreal of citizens exercising their democratic rights and convincing their elected officials to find a solution,” said Robert Perreault of the Regional Environment Council.

“For the first time in 15 years, we have politicians that are in agreement – for a long time, the mayors of Côte St. Luc (Bernard Lang) and Ville St. Pierre were in favour of development – that we have to preserve this greenspace,” said CôteSt.HampWest councillor Dida Berku. “We must seek closure to this issue now. We can’t have it hanging over our heads for the next mandate. This has to be resolved this term, this mandate, this year. That’s my commitment.”

“You need to make this [activism] a travelling road show,” said David Fletcher of the Green Coalition. “Where you need to put the pressure on, you need to be there and you need to make the numbers grow.”

“Politicians listen when there is enough noise,” said former Montreal West commissioner Howard Barza. “People coming out and publicizing the dangers of development is a developer’s worse nightmare.”

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