the Village of North Hatley – MRC de Memphrémagog

Presentation by Paul St-Pierre to the MRC de Memphrémagog, April 13, 2017.

(Above: location of the building ‘Chez Dame Jacqueline’)

Public consultation by the MRC de Memphrémagog, April 13, 2017: Management plan for the North Hatley flood zone.

The public consultation we are taking part in tonight is premature, since the document on which it is based is incomplete, flawed, at times inconsistent, vague, and tendentious.

  1. The document is incomplete: This document, other than in a few details, is the same as the one the Ministry of Municipal Affairs declared not in compliance with government guidelines. To make it compliant, the Village of North Hatley must file with the Ministry of the Environment an application for a certificate of authorization setting out the course of Kezar stream. This application has not yet been filed; the public does not know where Kezar stream will go or how the various properties in the flood zone – both those of the promoter and the surrounding properties – will be affected. This is of crucial importance for an understanding of the Management Plan, as the decanalization of Kezar stream will render approximately 2,000 m2 of land in the flood zone unbuildable. This may make it impossible for one of the buildings listed in the Management Plan to be built. Without knowing the actual course of the decanalized stream, it is impossible for the public to give an informed opinion on the Management Plan.
  2. The document is flawed: Others have pointed out that the calculations with regard to the delineation of the 0-20 and 20-100 year flood zones have to be redone, for several reasons: 1. The height assigned to the bridge in the EXP document does not correspond to the measurements by the Ministry of Transport, and this is likely to affect the calculation of water levels. The actual effect of this error in the EXP document should have been calculated before holding a public consultation on the document; 2. The delineation of the flood zones in the EXP document does not correspond to what the residents of the area actually experience; 3. The Management Plan does not take into account water levels when the area is flooded directly from the lake, as in 1994 and in the 1920s. Failure to do this means that residents of the flood zone and their property are being unnecessarily put at risk.

Other important flaws in the document relate to the Protection Policy for Lakeshores, Riverbanks, Littoral Zones and Floodplains.  Article 5.3 sets out criteria for the eligibility of zones for a Management Plan, as well as what the Plan must contain. Despite what is claimed in the document under discussion, the floodplain in North Hatley does not meet the density requirement under article 5.3 of more than five (5) principal constructions per hectare. The figures given in Table 2 (page 11) of the document are incorrect, since they include constructions other than principal constructions in the calculation. In addition, whereas Article 5.3 also indicates that “the management plan must stipulate an implementation schedule (‘calendrier de mise œuvre,’ in the French version. My emphasis),” the document presents no such ‘schedule’ but rather simply a series of tasks to be completed at an indefinite point of time in the future. Finally, Article 5.3. also notes that “the management plan must take into account titles of ownership of the State … .” (My emphahsis) There is, however, no mention made in the document of existing Municipal servitudes in the area, such as that between the Église Inter-foi and the former Emily LeBaron Park. The document needs to be reworked so that it meets the requirements of article 5.3 of the Protection Policy.

  1. The document is at times inconsistent: Two studies are cited in the Annex to the Management Plan; they constitute the very basis of its analysis of the site. At times, however, they contradict each other. The Avizo study indicates that parts of the site of the building known in the village under the name of “Chez Dame Jacqueline” (Avizo study: reference number 26) are located variously outside the flood zone, within the 0-20 year zone, and in the 20-100 year zone. Photos confirm that the building has in the past been completely surrounded during flooding by water coming directly from the lake. [See below] The EXP study, however, places the site of the building completely outside the flood zone. This contradiction – and there may be others – only serves to confirm that the data in the EXP study needs to be recalculated prior to approval of the Management Plan; in fact, the data should have been recalculated prior to the public consultation on the document.
  2. The document is vague: 1. On pages 22 and 23 of the Management Plan, the newly constructed buildings are presented in terms of ‘floors’ (three floors, four floors, five floors). The concept of ‘floor’ is by its very nature imprecise and does not correspond to the regulations currently in force in the village, which measure the height of buildings in ‘meters’; 2. On page 27 of the Management Plan, it is noted in relation to the decanalisation of Kezar stream, that “[u]ne bande d’une largeur de 10 m sera revégétalisée.” In fact, the width of the strip to be replanted and left unbuilt will be 10 meters on each side of the stream – thus, a band wider than 20 meters.
  3. The document is tendentious: A management plan is a document that serves as a framework and is integrated into the Schéma d’aménagement. The Schéma d’aménagement is “un document de planification chargé d’énoncer les grandes orientations et grandes affectations de la politique générale de la MRC quant à l’aménagement de son territoire” (Marc-André LeChasseur, Zonage et urbanisme en droit municipal québécois, page 255. My emphasis.) What is presented in the North Hatley Floodplain Management Plan is linked directly to a particular agreement in principle between the municipality and a developer, the owner of most of the land in the flood zone. To be convinced of this direct link, one need only compare the agreement in principle and the Management Plan with regard to the number and the height of the buildings envisaged, the number of units, as well as the proposed footprint. This means that the Management Plan has not been developed according to general needs or broad guidelines; it does not constitute a general framework for the development of the village. What will happen if this project is not carried out and another project is presented, perhaps by another promoter (townhouses, for example)? Since the Management Plan has been developed on the basis of a particular project, the specific details of which determine the content of the document, does this mean that only this project would be possible under the proposed Management Plan?

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs’ guidelines for public consultations are clear – the documents submitted to the public must be reliable. The Management Plan discussed this evening is not a reliable document; the public consultation is premature.

This is why I am calling for the public consultation to be suspended and resumed once the Management Plan has been completed and corrected.