What a mess
Chelsea Mayor Pierre Guénard undid years of really good work when he rushed the master plan through this past week.
Chelsea’s visioning exercises began when Caryl Green was mayor, in April 2020, and the next two years included multiple public consultations on draft bylaws, which yielded 550 comments from residents. Really great work.
But then what happened? Chelsea approved the master plan at its October council meeting and quietly launched a registry process that had the potential to trigger a referendum on the master plan.
It took Chelsea two full years to review the master plan and consult with the public. So, why the mad rush to slip a registry through while a majority of residents were unaware of the strict process?
Chelsea claims that it technically followed all the required regulations for a registry, but others disagree.
Many residents – and even some councillors – said they are concerned about the process.
There were major concerns around language, as the documents in question – zoning and subdivision bylaws – were not translated into English before the registry was opened. Several residents sent emails to the mayor pleading for a deferral on the Oct. 24 registry so more residents could have time to review the changes, but those emails, which were also sent to the Low Down, went unanswered over the weekend and the registry went ahead. Guénard told the Low Down that Chelsea responded “every time an email was sent,” but residents reported otherwise.
What’s worse is that zoning bylaw 12-15-22 – one of the bylaws in question – was missing pages when it was uploaded to the website on Oct. 22. The documents – both the French and English versions – were missing several maps and all of the appendices that explain the technical changes of the zoning were not attached.
Ward 2 Residents Association President Jacques Michaud told the Low Down that residents didn’t have the required information to make an educated decision before voting in the registry. His association has filed an official complaint with the municipality.
And when we spoke to several concerned residents, they said that Chelsea made it very difficult to find the information online, whether it was there or not. A quick search of “master plan” turns up nothing and the master plan report was buried under “municipal services.” Residents said they weren’t even aware of when the report was made public. There was no announcement, no press release — nothing. This is the road map for development for the next 10 years; it deserved a special meeting and a press release.
But there was none of that. There were no notices sent home to residents alerting them of an upcoming registry. Again, Chelsea technically followed all the rules, but did they do the right thing?
The fact that 545 people signed the registry in such a short amount of time is impressive, but it also shows how many people are confused by the master plan, its process and many of the details that were already approved.
Chelsea did a great job consulting with the public on the master plan over the last two years, but it was all ruined in five short days.