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History lesson: Chelsea vs. Hull

July 18th, 2014

By André Renaud

I was elated to learn that the Québec government finally gave Chelsea council the green light to install sewer and water in the village, which its citizens approved after much consultation. At last, Chelsea will be able to realize its vision for a vibrant community. My enthusiasm was dampened, however, after reading on Facebook that a councillor wants to revisit existing council resolutions, which will ultimately jeopardize the project by entertaining the notion of Chelsea being served by Gatineau.

It’s worth recalling that in 1971, Hull (now Gatineau), backed by its MNA and Minister Oswald Parent, proposed to annex Chelsea land from Hull to Scott Road. At the time, Hull was one of 32 municipalities in the regional government. Mr. Parent was concerned that Hull would be supplanted by its rival, Gatineau, which was growing by leaps and bounds. Unable to persuade Gatineau residents to amalgamate with Hull, he turned his eyes to Chelsea. The 32 municipalities are now eight, and Chelsea was able to remain, for the most part, intact.

In 1971, Chelsea passed a zoning bylaw that froze development from Hull to Old Chelsea Road. Chelsea wanted to develop autonomously but Mr. Parent, faute de mieux, coveted the undeveloped land. On his way to gobbling up a large part of Chelsea, he persuaded the MTQ and the NCC to move the future Hwy 50 further north. It was originally planned to go from Boulevard la Vérendrye, cross Alonzo Wright Bridge, then enter the Gatineau Park through the same corridor as the power lines. He planned the new location as an artificial boundary to permit Hull’s eventual northern urban expansion. Read More…

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Biased water article ignores Chelsea homeowners

July 9th, 2014

The article ‘Water, water everywhere’ (June 25) is written from what I believe is a biased perspective. Is it not the purpose of a newspaper to report facts and tell the truth from all sides? I suspect Art Mantell is spinning in his grave. I know Bob Mellor, my old editor, sure is.

Where are the voices of the 3,500 households who just became the risk-takers for developers and businesses to the tune of over $20 million dollars? The same 3,500 households who had no vote on this now inflated mega sewer and water project? It is utter nonsense to say that these businesses are ‘finally’ willing to spill the beans about the state of water and septic affairs in Chelsea’s centre. Whoever didn’t know this by now must be living under a rock. Not noted in the Low Down’s article is the irony that one of the complainants about delays, Hendrick’s Farm, is actually responsible for the two votes in question being considered by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs (MAMROT) as possibly being illegal and is taking its time in rendering a decision.

Chelsea residents were resigned, at this point, to the project, and were waiting for the bulldozers to show up. It was a dispute with developers behind the scenes that caused the delay. The proprietors of Hendrick’s Farm are complaining, in effect, about the consequences of their own actions. Or should no one have questioned what might have been an illegal vote? Perhaps there are ulterior motives for questioning the vote? Perhaps letting the vote go through unchallenged would have been best?

Whatever the result of MAMROT’s decision, neither taxpayers nor councillors can be blamed for the delay. I have some sympathy for the businesses and developers of Chelsea. They made a gamble (some more than others) and, so far, things are not working out as planned. Promises have been made to them by parties that had not yet figured out all the ins and outs and costs of a mega sewer and water system. They are now subject to the diverse opinions of residents of Chelsea, who were unable to participate in any vote on this costly project.

The municipality should not be twisting itself into a pretzel to figure out a way to please the businesses and developers of Chelsea, who should be collectively figuring out how they can provide sewer and water in exchange for the privilege of building and for making their profits – and not at the risk of taxpayers.

As for the Low Down, well . . . journalism is a calling: to tell the truth objectively, honestly, completely, and to the best of one’s ability. It is negligent to do otherwise.

 

Sylvia Shawcross lives in Chelsea, QC.

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Short-sighted for the sake of progress

July 2nd, 2014

By Sandy Mackay-Smith

The trouble with our generation is that we tend to leave our excesses for future generations to remedy. They will not be happy with us.

Directly above the Wakefield spring watershed, Styro Rail is supplying hundreds of polystyrene slabs to the contractor responsible for building the Hwy 5 extension. The slabs are being buried for the ramp up to the Valley Road overpass. Passers-by can see the light blue blocks (although they are already starting to discolour) piled on top of each other as they drive by the roundabout.

The blocks contain blown polystyrene. Styrene is considered toxic (poisonous) and is a suspected carcinogenic (cancer causing) chemical – both the U.S. toxic chemicals administration and its European equivalent have made these findings.

There are no studies on the ‘weathering’ of these blown polystyrene blocks that our group can find. ‘Weathering’ means how the blocks react long-term to soil erosion, ageing, and exposure to water and wind. What we don’t know is how the blocks will break down and if their by-products could seep into the water table. Read More…

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The little petition that could

June 25th, 2014

By Tammy Scott

In a few short weeks, the petition to convert the rails to a multi-purpose trail has reached over 4,000 supporters. The petition was started after Le Droit revealed that the amount to repair the tracks would ring in at $50 million. While the train was a beautiful part of the history of the area, it’s time to consider other options. Many feel the $50 million price tag is far too high; some are questioning whether that amount is 100% accurate. Either way, the instability of the soil and the financial viability of the train have always been pretty shaky. The train has had a go/no-go history over the years and several changes in ownership and management, leaving many to wonder why the latest proposal would have a better outcome. One simply has to drive to the corner of Hwy 105 and Patrick Road to be reminded of the landslide potential. A simple stone dust path requires far less maintenance than what is needed for a heavy, fast-moving train.

Sentiers Chelsea Trails, in partnership with Lafleur de la Capital and the Municipality of Chelsea, has been grooming the corridor for skiing, snowshoeing, and walking over the last seven winters. The project has been hugely successful, attracting folks from all over the region, and encouraging locals to get out, be active, and favour carbon footprint free ‘transportation’. For decades, there has been discussion to permanently convert the rails to a trail for all-season use, similar to other very successful projects in the Laurentians and Eastern Townships. A recent study in Kelowna for a similar project demonstrates the huge potential on all levels: tourism, environmentally friendly transportation, and connecting multiple communities through a safe, family-friendly, accessible passage. Read More…

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Rails with trails, smart: rails to trails, not so much

June 18th, 2014

by Joseph Potvin

Mobility Ottawa-Outaouais: Systems and Enterprises Inc. (Moose Inc.) is organizing a consortium to finance and operate passenger rail service along 400 km of existing railway tracks in the Greater National Capital Region. No public sector jurisdiction has both the mandate and budget for integrated transit spanning these locations. There is no other plan under development by any other entity for the financing and operation of whole-region transit integration across all the municipal and intercity systems.

The consortium’s rail service would be organized and financed by the private sector without a nickel from government. Moose Inc. has been working methodically through the financial, engineering, legal, and public interest aspects of its plan with diverse stakeholders, including mayors, councils, chambers of commerce, transportation professionals, and the CCFO. It supports a cycling/skiing/pedestrian trail alongside the railway, and has plans in the works to pay for its construction and maintenance. The project could accommodate a steam train for the tourist market if there’s demand.

There is no public interest justification for Friends of the Steam Train’s opposition to both trails and passenger rail service. Read More…

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‘When you learn, teach. When you get, give.’

June 11th, 2014

By Kate Aley and Charles Dickson

Celebrated American poet, author, performer, teacher, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou died last month at the age of 86. Emerging from a poor upbringing in rural Arkansas to become an American icon, Angelou was a warrior for equality, tolerance, and peace. She urged that we always endeavour “to show ourselves at our best – as we understand the best to be to each other – and show ourselves with courage and with courtesy.”

Angelou was considered a cultural treasure by many. Her wisdom and insight born of years of struggle and perseverance made her a respected voice. Here, we are blessed to be surrounded by many such voices of human wisdom; voices that brim with insight from years of work, endurance, and kindness; voices from which we can learn much if we slow down long enough to listen. Voices of philosophy, learning ,and reason from our farmers, teachers, and community leaders. Voices of strength and compassion from our ministers, nurses, and stalwart volunteers. And the voices of experience and perspective of our elders and the keepers of our history – the stories of how we came to be living in this particular place that tell us who we are. Read More…

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Chelsea’s affordable seniors’ housing project is a creative solution

June 4th, 2014

Chelsea’s affordable seniors’ housing project is a creative solution

By Claude Gervais

In response to Maggie Kilian’s Valley Voices (May 14), the Corporation d’habitation de Chelsea (CHC) is a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to creating affordable housing solutions. The volunteer board is elected annually from CHC’s membership, which is open to all, including Ms Killian.

Not everyone in Chelsea is in the higher income demographic. The first focus of CHC is to build an affordable, twelve-unit seniors’ housing project using the Societé d’ habitation du Québec (SHQ) model and funding programme. Our application to SHQ is complete; over 80 Chelsea-based seniors are on a waiting list and the allocation of funds for our project is pending.

After several years, the CHC evaluated many possible locations. This process was detailed and information was available to all. It assessed all of Ms. Kilian’s creativity factors: financial, safety, environmental, location, and opportunities for intergenerational interaction. All of her concerns were addressed in the proposal that CHC made to the municipality.

Read More…

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Kazmarlo – the amalgamated Future

May 28th, 2014

By Steve Connolly

Recently, the salaries of the mayors and councillors of the 17 communities making up the MRC de La Vallée- de-la-Gatineau (MRCVG) were revealed. Unsurprisingly, huge disparities prevailed. For example, elected officials of Lac Blue Sea and Lac Ste. Marie pay themselves more than twice as much as those in Low, where the population is over 25 per cent higher. The cost per citizen for elected officials varies by almost five times across these 17 municipalities.

Ten years or so ago, I surveyed the incomes of the 17 municipal directors general within the MRCVG. The seven male DGs averaged an income of $63,000, while the eleven female DGs averaged $41,000. While this situation has improved, it most likely remains unfair.

It has always been difficult to obtain this information because of the embarrassment on the part of our elected officials, who are supposed to coordinate overall governance. The MRCVG has refused to share details of the contract with its director general because it would reveal that the position pays more than four times the income of the average citizen. Read More…

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Active transport: Different needs – different solutions

May 21st, 2014

By Alain Piché

Sentiers Chelsea Trails (SCT) was established in 2010 as a non-profit organization with a mandate to develop the non-motorized nature trail system in Chelsea. In a few short years, we have mapped and inventoried existing trails, trained SCT volunteers, built two new municipal trails, and planned several others. SCT has also led efforts to groom and maintain 16 km of the Chelsea railway corridor as a winter trail. We’ve also worked in partnership with the Municipality of Chelsea to complete the first phase of an Active Transport Master Plan.

The plan identifies key transportation corridors in Chelsea. Chelsea is 22 km long and 3 km wide, so north-south corridors are vital, but there are different needs for different user groups. Encouraging active transportation means addressing the pitiful condition of one of our ‘main streets’, Hwy 105. A safe Hwy 105 requires paved shoulders, appropriate signage, and traffic calming, which would result in an attractive facility for walkers, cycle commuters, and the growing number of road cycle tourists who visit the region. Quebec’s Route Verte network is one of the best cycle route systems in North America; joining the network offers the potential to access provincial grants to upgrade roads. Developing Hwy 105 as a safe cycling route would be a win-win for Chelsea and the region. Read More…

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Farm Point seniors’ home: let’s get creative

May 14th, 2014

By Maggie Kilian

We all support having a seniors’ residence in Farm Point. As residents, we want to ensure it is a positive addition to our community.

The Farm Point seniors’ home project is now slated to be built in the forest adjacent to the Farm Point Community Centre.

There are other potential sites nearby, including an expropriated property with an existing structure and wonderful river views. This and several other options would better serve the seniors, community members, Peggy Brewin Preschool kids, and the environment, and would even minimize projected costs and conserve the forest so that everyone can enjoy it for years to come.

It’s clear that the forest location is not a sound financial, social, safe, or environmental choice. The only factor that favours the forest site over others is that the current building design can be made to fit on this location. This design is based on the La Pêche model, but modified to extend 12 units over one floor. What if there was an investment made in a building design made to fit the best location instead of spending more in construction costs to remove the forest? If the Commission d’habitation de Chelsea (CHC) chose to invest the savings, they would gain on construction and sewage costs in a creative building design at the best location. This would be a win for the seniors, the community, and the environment, and the Municipality of Chelsea and would be a model for other communities.  Read More…

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