Jessica Tapp just wants the municipality of Chelsea to leave her alone.
After the municipality ripped out her nine-foot cedar hedges, which provided privacy at her Farm Point property in 2021, it now wants to build a right-of-way to extend the Chelsea trail – the Voie Verte – across her driveway.
If she thought she lost her privacy when Chelsea cut the hedges, she said she knows she’s in for even more traffic this summer — as many as 4,000 trail users every month.
“The trail is going to go straight across my driveway,” said Tapp, pointing to the edge of her property on Chemin de la Rivière. She referred to a right-of-way document that Chelsea asked her to sign that shows the municipality’s plan to build a trail crosswalk from the Chelsea trail across Chemin de la Rivière and extend the trail. “They are going to cross here, and then they will be on the trail in front of my garage,” she said. “So, to get out of my driveway, I will have to cross the trail.”
Safety between trail users and motorists has been a hot issue since the multi-purpose municipal trail was built, with many calling for more signs and swing gates at intersections. Last week, Low Down reader Penny Allan penned a letter describing an incident in which a motorist was allegedly threatened by a cyclist on the trail.
Tapp said she worries that these types of interactions will become all too familiar for her, when as many as 133 people a day are crossing her driveway.
According to an email from Chelsea to Tapp on May 3 and obtained by the Low Down, the municipality “must proceed with a major modification of the angle of the crossing” to improve the safety of trail users.
“I feel pretty powerless,” said Tapp. “What can I do?”
Chelsea did offer to build “a fence or cedar hedge” to provide privacy, but Tapp said she isn’t convinced that will happen — especially since Chelsea reneged on its promise to replace the 26-year-old, 30-foot long hedges it removed without her knowledge in 2021.
According to emails obtained by the Low Down, Chelsea apologized for the cedar hedges being ripped out and agreed to “honour our commitments” to replace the hedges. Chelsea staffer at the time, Frédéric Rioux, asked Tapp to forward him her $6,000-plus estimate for the hedges. However, Tapp received a later email from law firm La Mutuelle des municipalités du Québec stating that Chelsea was not on the hook for the work.
“Indeed, after investigation, we conclude that the municipality was not negligent. Therefore, we cannot comply with your request,” wrote the law firm. The firm then suggested that if Tapp wanted to continue the fight, she would have to go after the company that did the work — FGK Construction.
“I am powerless,” said a deflated Tapp, who runs a busy hair salon out of her Farm Point home. “When they pulled the hedges, that was the beginning of powerlessness. And I argued with them, and they promised me that they were going to [fix it], but it was all bullshit.”
Tapp doesn’t have the resources to fight a big construction company in court and said she is highly disappointed that Chelsea is washing its hands clean of the issue. It’s even worse, she said, that Chelsea came back with a right-of-way request to encroach onto her property after backing out of its commitment to replace her hedges.
According to Chelsea spokesperson Maude Prud’homme Séguin, the cedar hedge that was removed in 2021 was in the municipal right-of-way and the municipality had intended to contact Tapp prior to the work “as a courtesy,” but the contractors went ahead with the work without authorization. She said the situation has “been addressed with the project stakeholders and should not recur.”
As for the trail extension across Tapp’s driveway, Prud’homme Séguin said the work is entirely within the municipality’s right-of-way and that the crosswalk is needed “to ensure that users cross the road as perpendicularly as possible.”
“The extension of the Voie Verte Chelsea in front of the residence, in the municipal right-of-way, is therefore required to straighten the crossing and reduce the distance travelled on the road, thus increasing safety at the intersection,” she said. She added that work would begin in late June with a second phase scheduled for August.
The municipality also sent a right-of-way agreement to Farm Point resident Pierre LeBel, who lives on Chemin de la Rivière, but before considering signing it, LeBel said he wants to know why they need the extra space. He has yet to receive an explanation for the right-of-way request.
“My concern is, will I give a right-of-way for another bicycle path there?” worried LeBel after seeing a sketched-out bike path on one of the municipal plans. “There is one right there, he said, pointing to the Chelsea trail directly in his backyard. “Why would they need to do another one there? And I don’t want any boardwalk in front of my house.”
Chelsea held a public consultation on water access in Farm Point last year and one of the ideas that came out of the meeting was a boardwalk for the community. These plans, however, are not official development plans for Farm Point.