The Chelsea, Quebec municipality “verbally” agreed to a housing development in the Farm Point quarry about 25 years ago, according to its owner.
Laurent Dery said he bought the quarry in 1988, hoping to snag a gravel-crushing contract for the planned Hwy 5 expansion project. Once the quarry was emptied of rock, he planned to build a housing development on the site.
“We bought it with the idea that all the rock would be crushed and used up for aggregate on (Hwy) 5,” said Dery.
But the Hwy 5 expansion project was delayed for 15 years, and when construction started in 2007, Dery said contractors decided against using his quarry.
So the 77-year-old Gatineau resident said he put the project “on ice” and dismantled the quarry’s rock-crushers. The quarry has not been worked since 1995.
It has been rumoured lately that Dery signed a binding contract with the municipality in 1988 that would allow them to build a four-unit-per-acre housing development on about 70 acres of his land. Dery said this is not quite true.
“We had a verbal commitment by the municipality in those days,” he said.
Chelsea Mayor Caryl Green said she was not sure about this verbal agreement, but that a previous council couldn’t make such a promise for a future council.
According to MRC des Collines bylaws, a four-unit-per-acre housing development is only permitted if it has its own water and sewer system. Otherwise two-units-per-acre is the maximum.
Dery said he wants the maximum allowed homes-per-acre because his project will be costly. It will require filling in the 30-metres deep quarry with the existing rock, plus trucking in soil and providing a water and sewer system.
Dery said he doesn’t know how many homes his property will accommodate, nor the cost of the project.
In a recent Low Down article, Green said the municipality was considering expanding the existing septic waste treatment system in Farm Point, if Dery’s project is approved.
Sylvie D’Aoust, president of the Committee de Loisirs de Chelsea Nord, said she’s concerned about the planned housing development.
“I’m not for it,” she said. “We all moved out of the city; we don’t want it back in our backyards.”
D’Aoust’s committee is working to revitalize the Farm Point community.
The Farm Point-area councillor, Celine Brault, said Chelsea’s density is already higher than the norm.
“The current density is eight an acre – it’s jam-packed,” she said. “People react to density because they have a hard time visualizing what that is.”
D’Aoust said she’s not against development, per se.
“If you can effectively develop that area, it would be nice to be developed,” she said.
Farm Point is currently undergoing a massive planning process. Chelsea is working out a new PPU, or special planning program, which will detail the construction limits and zoning bylaws for the area.
This puts Dery in a unique position, because his project depends on the PPU outcome.
Even though he’s in the early planning stages of his development, Dery says one thing is for sure: “The character of Farm Point as a beautiful small village has to be maintained.”
There will be a “world cafe” public consultation about the Farm Point PPU on Feb. 23. It will be at the Cascades Club from noon to 4 p.m.
Farm Point residents will get a notice in the mail and will need to register by phone or email in advance.
History of the quarry at Farm Point
1959-68: Alcan Aluminium Limited (today it’s called Rio Tinto Alcan Canada Ltd.) owns and operates the site for brucite mineral extraction. The Canadian mining company also extracts white marble and ships it to the Morrison Quarry where it’s treated.
1974: Chelsea municipality buys the quarry.
1988: Laurent Dery buys the quarry.
1988-95: More than 400,000 tons of stone crushed for the Hwy 5 expansion plan.
1994: Hwy 5 project is delayed for 15 years.
2007-2012: Hwy 5 expansion is underway, with an exit at Cross Loop and St-Clement Road. Dery rethinks quarry project and plans for a four-unit-per-acre development.