Thursday, 19 August 2010

Winning and Not Winning: When Turning out to Demand a Referendum Does Nothing

The folks who live around the former Mont-Jesus-Marie convent on the northern slopes of Mount Royal thought they'd stopped the conversion of the 80 year old building to condos but turning out to sign in favour of a referendum on a zoning change is not going to do that.

The measures in question didn't deal with the right of the developer to convert the building into luxury condos--despite what many citizens apparently believed--but with small aspects of the design. Some of them, like requiring interior parking, actually might make any project better. Faced with the costs of holding a referendum, the city simply decided not to require the changes to the plan, and will let it proceed as previously approved. This will avoid a referendum, but won't stop the controversy.

The Université de Montréal owns the building, having acquired it from a religious order in order to convert it to classroom, office and other university uses. Since then the estimates of conversion costs have increased substantially and, besides, the university has acquired more land in Outremont on former railway switching yards on which to build.

Interestingly, about 10 years ago Outremont citizens turned back an earlier attempt to develop the yards into housing by a demanding referendum on zoning changes. In that case, the city withdrew the zoning bylaw, but since it concerned the right to develop, not mere aspects of already approved development, the project died.

As for this one, well, Lee suggests that the building should be just torn down and the whole area turned into a park....

Photo: Project Montreal

1 comment:

lagatta à montréal said...

With all due respect, I disagree with Lee here (though he may have been facetious). This is a lovely old building and should be developed for educational or social needs.