By Stephanie Truple
As I’m sure many readers of this paper are aware, the growth of Chelsea’s population over the last few years has necessitated the building of a new French language elementary school which, I believe, we citizens of Chelsea all support. However, that this need has led to the expropriation of much-loved charitable land meant to be used by the community in perpetuity is highly questionable.
As I understand it, after having reviewed the municipality’s presentation at council, a set of criteria was submitted by CSSPO for the site of the new school, to which the municipality added their own criteria. Apparently, some of these criteria could be subject to negotiation.
The municipality claims that no other sites met the criteria of both parties. It appears as though no efforts were made to negotiate these criteria, even though the legislation allows for negotiated exceptions. How is it possible that developed charitable lands, used and cherished by the community, were offered to the CSSPO in the first place when the municipality is onlyrequired to identify suitable vacant land? It’s my understanding that the municipality simply decided to offer part of the Chelsea Foundation’s land without consultation or even communication with the Foundation, much less with the residents of Chelsea.
Also, the cost of acquiring these already developed lands will be exponentially more than one of the other sites that meet most of the criteria. This less expensive, alternative site was discussed and rejected by the municipality. At no time were the residents of Chelsea invited to participate in the process of a decision that deeply affects the community, not to mention our pocketbooks. Do we want to sit idly by while our property taxes continually increase to pay for a decision that could have been avoided by choosing another, much less costly, suitable site?
As far as I know, this is the first time in this province’s history that land belonging to a charity will be expropriated for any reason. Does Chelsea really want to be the leader of these kinds of decisions? For a place that seems to pride itself on its sense of community, the actions of our municipal government indicate that’s the last of their priorities. We need to demand more transparency and accountability from our local leaders.
Stephanie Turple is a resident of Chelsea, QC.