Citizen protest halts plans for 20-storey condo along Lachine Canal

Griffintown residents overturned the borough’s decision to grant an exemption to the zoning bylaw that limits building heights.

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Citizens have thwarted the construction of a 20-storey condo tower that was planned along the Lachine Canal.

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The Sud-Ouest borough, which had supported the 295-unit development by Omnia Technologies Inc., announced on Friday that council members are now refusing a zoning exemption and change to the urban plan for Griffintown that would have permitted a building up to 60 meters tall on the site of the former Lucky Luc horse stables on Bassins St., between Richmond Ave. and Seigneurs St.

“I’m very happy,” said Louise Bédard, one of the people who organized the neighborhood’s protest against the zoning exemption, on Friday. Most buildings along the same side of the canal are eight storeys.

“In the past two weeks, a group of us showed that citizen involvement can work.”

Opponents said the project would obscure views of Mount Royal, overshadow the canal’s industrial heritage and set a precedent for more 20-storey towers.

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Bedard said she learned Friday that the borough had received a record number of letters opposed to the project. Residents also staged a protest at the site on Tuesday.

Bédard said she and two other residents were invited to a meeting on Friday with councilor Craig Sauvé and borough mayor Benoit Dorais’s chief of staff, Julie Bélanger, where they were told the news. Dorais was not present, Bedard said.

In a statement posted later on his Facebook page, Dorais announced that borough council members had rejected the project. The council is dominated by Mayor Valérie Plante’s Projet Montréal party.

“If the Sud-Ouest council agreed to present this particular project to the population, it is because we saw the possibility of reaping significant positive spinoffs for the district,” Dorais wrote. Projects that are at variance with zoning regulations “make it possible to negotiate spinoffs, requirements not otherwise permitted, or even to go further in the demands of the neighbourhood,” he wrote.

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However, Dorais added, “upon reading the public consultation report, which the elected officials have reviewed, we find that the population did not share this opinion. We have heard you and respect the will that has been expressed.”

In exchange for the zoning exemption, Omnia Technologies had offered to construct a building with 50 social housing units on William St. and build a park and public passageway on its land near the tower.

Jean-François Beaulieu, president of Omnia Technologies, said on Friday he was unaware of the borough’s decision.

“We proposed a project that had been asked for by the city,” he said. “It was the city that suggested 20 storeys. They don’t want to do it anymore. I’m just tired of waiting. We bought the land three years ago.”

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Beaulieu’s company doesn’t require borough approval to build a residential project that conforms to existing regulations. The urban plan allows 25 meters or eight storeys, while the zoning bylaw permits 20 meters or six storeys.

Asked whether he would still build 50 social housing units, Beaulieu said that it was off the table.

“If we build a project as of right now, we won’t build social housing,” he said. Under the city’s new housing bylaw, a developer can make a financial contribution in lieu of building social housing units.

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