Chelsea Master Plan: development plan adopted
Reuel S. Amdur
October 4 was a big night for Chelsea Council. It adopted the long-considered master plan to spell out the basic rules for development for many years. What is the plan about? In broadest outline, it places a very heavy emphasis on preserving and protecting the natural environment. It allows for intensification in the urban core (Centre-village) and to some degree also in Farm Point. Beyond those sectors, it becomes more difficult to build. There are then stronger requirements for maintaining and promoting the natural environment. As an example of this direction, minor variances will not be permitted to get around ecological rules. Greater protections are in place for trees and to promote their planting.
Once the plan is approved, zoning outside the urban core will limit development from the current acre per home to 4.5 acres. No fences are allowed and natural corridors for wildlife travelling to and from Gatineau Park are protected.
When we look at past issues, it is interesting to see how the new master plan might have affected their outcome. Thus, development of property on the Larrimac Golf Club land was permitted, despite opposition from ACRE (Action Chelsea for Respect of the Environment), which was concerned about a wildlife corridor. Chelsea Council approved the development because the corridor was not a major corridor. It is unclear whether the new master plan would have allowed development.
The plan mandates Chelsea to identify buildings of ecological, esthetic, and historical worth and take steps to protect them. Even now, Chelsea is involved in a conflict with architect Hank Kloosterman, over serious landslide damage to his rather spectacular house on Chemin des Lupins. There has not been an artistic evaluation of the building. Will there be one now, and if it is found to be of serious esthetic value, will Chelsea take steps to save it?
Bylaws on zoning and subdividing were also adopted at the meeting, with some negative votes. These bylaws give further direction to the master plan.
Why are some people opposed to the plan? When the draft plan was presented to a public meeting at Farm Point Community Centre on May 18, resident Paul Elter expressed his opposition to growth, pointing to boil water advisories. He argued that these demonstrated that Chelsea was already too heavily developed. Jacques Michaud, President of the Ward 2 Residents Association, echoed the concern about water problems and added that he felt that traffic problems remain to be resolved. He joined others in attempting to block the plan with a referendum. Councillor Enrico Valente was simply against the plan because he wants to protect Chelsea’s rural character,
Getting back to the question of a referendum, Chelsea opened the book for signatures to call for one on October 24, but concerned residents failed to trigger the referendum. Their 545 signatures were fifty short of the number needed. Michaud is challenge the result of the failed effort to have the referendum, pointing to lack of documents in English and/or unavailable altogether. He is calling for the registry to be reopened or for Chelsea to move to a referendum.