Cantley rejects Nature 360 over environmental concerns
It’s back to the table for the developers behind Nature 360 in Cantley, as councillors rejected Martin Baril’s ambitious 520-hectare residential project in its current form during an April 11 council meeting.
According to Cantley Mayor David Gomes, councillors sided with the city’s Urban Planning Advisory Committee and the Cantley Environment and Sustainable Development Advisory Committee and are asking for more environmental protections, including more protected land, measures to protect the shoreline and building ecological corridors for wildlife in the area.
“I want to protect the environment; that is my main thing here,” said Gomes, adding that more than a dozen other development projects are hinging on this big Nature 360 decision. “If you see the development, the promoters are going to save approximately 75 to 80 per cent of the forest. That’s a good thing. But this forest is very important, and it has never been touched by anybody.”
The big development, which includes the creation of 500 residential lots that will extend on Mount Lorne to Chemin du Mont-des-Cascades, as well as on the banks of the Gatineau River, was partially approved during Cantley council’s last mandate.
But since then, new MRC des Collines development rules have come into effect and the Nature 360 project does not align with the new regulations — namely, the construction of new roads.
Gomes said, if councillors decide to reject the project entirely, the municipality could be open to a series of multi-million-dollar lawsuits.
“For the committee, we will talk with the promoters and see what we can do together in the next month, but, for sure, the project will come back to the table,” said Gomes. “And at that time, we are going to have a very big decision to make.”
Developer Martin Baril said, while he was disappointed with the decision, he understands how big of a decision this is for Cantley and has no issues working with councillors on adapting the plan.
However, because he’s already two years into the project, he has spent significant time and money and said he will now have to adjust plans. According to him, Cantley is asking for 10 per cent of the land to be donated to the municipality for public use.
“So basically, it’s more usage for the people, which is a great thing. We have nothing against that,” Baril told the Low Down. “Of course, we would have preferred to know at the beginning for sure. Because we could have planned accordingly.”
Baril said he is now adapting plans and shrinking some of the lots to accommodate council’s new recommendations, which also include measures to reduce the amount of sediment that could end up in the water from the mountain nearby.
He said he hopes to be back at council within a few months to discuss the updated version of his plan.
“We’re going to just be improving a little more, and will come back to the table with something that hopefully satisfies all parties,” he said. “We’re just trying to be as eco-friendly as possible and be trying to make everybody happy. It’s not easy.”
Citizens worry about the impact the project will have on surrounding species at risk and vegetation. Wildlife biologist Carl Savignac said he knows the area well and has identified several vulnerable species of trees and animals that have legal protection.
These include the presence of whip-poor-will birds, which are increasingly rare in the region.
“There are more than 15 species of plants and wildlife that are either federally or provincially protected,” said Savignac. “It’s not a secret that that forest is very old. There are about 15 trees over 250 years old. The general forest is over 100 years old.”
Gomes said a dozen other development projects, which were also approved before the MRC’s new rules came into force, are hinging on the Nature 360 decision.