Chelsea, Quebec residents urged to wrest back control of critical decisions

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by admin on May 4, 2011

The Editor,

On April 4, Chelsea, Quebec council passed three borrowing bylaws, totalling $1.4 million for professional services for municipal sewage and water. For water, there are two bylaws, one each for the unbuilt and built sectors of Old Chelsea. For the unbuilt sector, the only qualified voters are five developers, most of whom have a vested interest in municipal water.

In a recent letter, Chelsea council informed eligible voters about the bylaws and the associated costs. However, some clarifications to this letter are in order.

First, we are told that although the borrowing bylaws total $1.4 million, only $80,000 will be allocated for professional services for “cost validation.” The results of this exercise will be presented in the fall of 2011. For potable water (bylaw 782-11), we are told that at that time residents will be able to decide whether to proceed with the proposed water system. No such assurances have been given for the bylaw (780-11) concerning the proposed sewage system.

Second, municipal assurances notwithstanding, eligible voters and Chelsea residents should be aware that significant questions remain unanswered. These include:

(1) If only $80,000 for professional services is required, there is no need for borrowing bylaws. Moreover, if indeed the required disbursement is only for $80,000, why is the total request for $1.4 million?

(2) The bylaws do not impose a duty to consult with residents on how to proceed, nor do they impose any obligation on council to accede to residents’ wishes. If, indeed, this was council’s intent, why are these intentions not explicitly stated  in the bylaws themselves?

(3) For bylaw 780-11 (sewage), the letter states merely that following the cost validation exercise, council “commits to meeting with residents to present the financial implications involved with such a project.” There is no mention of residents being able to decide whether – or in what form – the undertaking ought to proceed.

(4) A single potable water infrastructure is proposed for Chelsea. What, then, is the rationale for two borrowing bylaws? Yes, the funding formula will undoubtedly differ between developers and residents. But this in itself does not require two separate bylaws, especially if the exercise is merely about “cost validation.” Having two bylaws means, however, that five developers will determine whether we get municipal water, infrastructure that will almost certainly usher in major changes to Chelsea.

Over the past several months, council has proven singularly unreceptive to requests from many residents for real and substantive community engagement on these critical issues.  There is now substantial evidence (a) that council intends to proceed with its plans for municipal water and sewage irrespective of the wishes of residents, and (b) that these by-laws have been orchestrated so as to provide the legal grounds for doing so.

 

Enough is enough. It is past time that Chelsea residents wrested back control of these critical decisions.

We encourage those currently residing at the following addresses – 11 Notch Rd., Old Chelsea Rd. No. 144-254, Padden  Rd. 5-24, Scott Rd. 6-68, Versant Rd. 3 – who have been residents here for six months, or be a business owner or operator here for 12 months and are over 18 year of age, to sign the registry for bylaws 781-11 and 782-11.

The registry for potable water (by laws 781-11 and 782-11) will be open Thursday, May 5, from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Town Hall, 100 Old Chelsea Rd. The registry for sewage (780-11) will, we are told, be opened the following week.

 

David Roy

Jennifer Crawley

Old Chelsea, Quebec