Thursday, 30 August 2007

Dense Development on an Island in the St. Lawrence: A Good Idea in a Bad Place?

Eighteen thousand signatures on a petition in a couple of weeks isn't a bad score. At issue is a development of 2000 or so housing units on 24 acres in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. The project will either infringe disastrously on a provincial park, or be a model of sustainable development and dense urban planning, take your pick.

Developer Luc Poirier wants to build the high rise development on Ile Charron, one of the Iles de Boucherville. The group of small islands were formerly used for farming and pasturage, but most of them now make up the Parc national de Iles de Boucherville. Just 15 minutes from downtown Montreal, the islands are linked by pedestrian bridges and cable ferries, and criss-crossed by walking and biking trails. Birdlife is abundant, and a herd of deer graze the meadows. Last summer one of the best outings we had was an afternoon walking the the trails, followed by a picnic at the edge of the water. A lovely experience very close to the center of the city.

In order to protect this, Nature Quebec and government officials from the municipalities on the south shore of the St. Lawrence, which have planning jurisdiction over Ile Charron, presented the petition denouncing the development plan to provincial environmental officials on Wednesday

Ile Charron, crossed by a major highway into the city, already has a big hotel and a golf course. Developer Poirier insists that his project will not harm the provincial park itself, and will actually be a model of how to build with environmental concerns in mind. The buildings will be designed for high LEED ratings, with such things as green roofs and state-of-the-art energy conservation features, he told Radio Canada Thursday morning. Walking and bike riding will be encouraged within the project. There also will be shopping so residents can run errands on foot, and shuttle links to the nearest Metro station are planned to insure that residents won't be car-dependent. "We have outstanding urbanists on our team," he said.

Well, at least he's talking the talk. But will he walk the walk? This is one to follow: it could be this is a case of a not-bad idea in a bad place.

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