Decision time for the Beaconsfield sound wall project

Léger’s poll question about whether building the wall of sound is a “necessary evil” ruffles some feathers in Beaconsfield.

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It’s time to make decisions for the Beaconsfield sound wall project.

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The city council is holding a special committee meeting Friday to decide whether to go ahead with a sound barrier project on the south side of Highway 20. The wall would stretch three miles from Devon Rd. on the west to the eastern border of the city on Jasper Rd.

The Quebec Ministry of Transport (MTQ) estimates that the sound barrier could cost up to $60 million. The MTQ would pay 75 percent of the cost, with the city paying the remaining 25 percent.

Mayor Georges Bourelle said the council will consider information it has gathered from the public, including the results of a recent public poll by Léger marketing, before making a decision on whether to proceed with construction of the sound wall.

The Léger 360 survey collected 600 telephone responses, including input from 100 residents in each of the city’s six districts. The survey also sought responses from residents living on the north and south sides of Highway 20.

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While the results of the survey have not yet been made public, one question apparently caused some concern due to its wording. According to the mayor, the survey question reads as follows:

“Indicate your level of agreement with each of the following statements: Using a scale from 0 to 10, where zero means that you strongly disagree and 10 means that you strongly agree. Here are the four options:

  1. The noise barrier project will have a positive impact on my quality of life.
  2. The noise barrier is important in reducing noise pollution in Beaconsfield.
  3. The noise barrier project is a necessary evil and must be built.
  4. The construction costs of the project are acceptable.”

The phrase “necessary evil” in option 3 is what raised the concern of some residents, Bourelle said.

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“It’s not a great choice of words, but I’ve heard the expression, ‘a necessary evil,’ in English many times,” he said.

“I don’t understand why some people, and it’s some at Beaconsfield Confidential (Facebook page) that have made a big, big deal. I don’t understand why they would make such a fuss because it actually says you agree with the wall. The acoustic barrier project is a necessary evil. It must be built.”

Bourelle says that the expression should not be interpreted as a question uploaded to the wall of sound.

“If you answered, ‘I totally agree,’ that means you are in favor of the wall,” he said.

Bourelle also noted that some taxpayers have raised concerns that their city tax bills will increase to fund the city’s portion of the wall.

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“If the wall was free for residents, I think the wall would be finished. The issue is not to put up a wall. The real issue is how people will pay for it. That is where the controversy is. Some people just don’t want to pay it because they think it will only benefit a very few households.

“And the people who stand to benefit the most don’t want to pay for most of the wall. So here you have a real dilemma of how this damn wall is paid for. That’s the real problem”.

But local sound wall advocate Michel Rheault has argued that the sound wall is a community health issue and not a money issue.

Rheault says that governments have already set precedents by providing funds and measures for households affected by floods. He says the same logic should apply to homes affected by noise pollution.

Depending on what the council decides in the caucus, Bourelle said the city could choose to hold a referendum to allow citizens to vote on the sound wall debate that has dragged on for decades.

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