It’s a tale of two roads that reaches back in time at least four years.
Road No. 1
École secondaire St-Georges is in Senneville. A portion of Ste-Anne St. which serves only the school is in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue. The road is in dire need of repairs.
Road No. 2
Blvd. des Anciens-Combattants is a main north-south artery in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue territory. However, a small portion of the road near Ste-Anne Hospital belongs to Senneville.
Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue suggested a straight switch of ownership. Senneville would get the slice of Ste-Anne St. in front of the school and Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue would get the slice of Blvd. des Anciens-Combattants near the hospital. Costs for repairs to Ste-Anne St. would be shared.
Not so fast.
Senneville council passed a motion stating it would take on the entire cost of restoring the school-adjacent portion of Ste-Anne St. only if Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue would officially cede it. The stretch of Blvd. des Anciens-Combattants would remain part of Senneville. The suggestion of switching ownership outright was deemed “impractical.”
In response, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue council passed a motion that it would not cede the portion of Ste-Anne St. and that road repairs would move forward with Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue assuming two-thirds of the cost and the Commission Scolaire Marguerite Bourgeoys assuming one-third of the cost. A firm would organize the work which will cost an estimated $180,000 and begin in June, 2017.
The launch of duelling motions has put stress on what has historically been a comfortable relationship between the two municipalities.
“There is nothing impractical about our offer,” Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue Mayor Paola Hawa said. “Fair is fair. We were willing to make the switch — Ste-Anne for Anciens-Combattants — but they turned us down.”
Senneville Mayor Jane Guest said the town wants to hang onto the portion of Anciens-Combattants in case it is needed as an access point for future development of a nearby triangle of land already owned by a developer.
“Although no concrete plans are in place, the land is slated for some sort of development,” Guest said. “We would like to have the flexibility in place. We don’t know what the development will be.”
All West Island municipalities have been asked to flag areas for residential development in compliance with the Montreal Agglomeration Council’s master urban plan, but the prospect of densification near main roads that intersect with a highway — as is the case with Anciens-Combattants — can conjure up unpopular images of shrinking green space and traffic gridlock.
And there is another element at play.
When Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue negotiated terms with the federal government that would offset the negative financial impact of Ste-Anne Hospital transferring from federal to provincial jurisdiction, part of the deal was for the town to take over a piece of land adjacent to the hospital and develop it.
“That means we both have options to develop in the same area,” Guest said. “And we have to consider the impact of the future (light-rail) system with a station slated for Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue near Highway 40. If that happens (Anciens-Combattants) becomes an even more important road. The whole sector has to be rethought. There are a lot of moving parts at play and (the two municipalities) have to be partners in the rethinking process.”
Hawa is no stranger to the complexities at hand. Development versus conservation and quality of life is a delicate balancing act. She remained philosophical on the subject of future discussions.
“At the end of the day, we’re neighbours. We have to get along with each other,” Hawa said.