Cyclists pass by a vacant lot on Lakeshore Rd. which Baie-d’Urfé town council voted to approve a purchase offer. Peter McCabe / MONTREAL GAZETTE
Baie-d’Urfé town council voted to approve a purchase offer for a property on Lakeshore Rd. at a special council meeting last Thursday morning.
Council voted 4-3 in favour of purchasing the private lot for $1.45 million, with Mayor Maria Tutino delivering the tie-breaking vote.
A municipal drainage pipe runs through the property to Lac St. Louis, but the town did not have a servitude and wanted to own the property outright.
But the purchase offer proved contentious after a local resident came forward to council, saying he wanted to buy the property and work out an arrangement whereby the town could have a servitude on the drainage pipe without having to buy the property, which is presently uninhabited.
Jean-Pierre Kunz, who lives on the adjoining property, presented council with documents showing he had contacted town and provincial government officials in 2016 about diverting the draining pipe onto his property. Kunz said his plan was to eventually merge the two properties and eventually build a larger residence near the waterfront.
Kunz’s presentation was quickly halted by Tutino, who said the town would not collude with a private citizen to work out a side deal for access to the drainage pipe.
“We’re not here to listen to a presentation,” the mayor said. “This is not the venue. This is a council meeting where decisions are made by council.”
However, councillor Brian Manning was surprised to hear Kunz’s plan.
“Why wasn’t the council made aware of this? Why wasn’t this given to council?” Manning asked.
“Where’s the transparency?” added councillor Peter Fletcher, who is a candidate for mayor in November’s municipal election.
Tutino intervened again.
“Stop playing games here,” she said. “Here, there is a collusion that could be considered to be done between people interested in buying a property and that would not be ethical in the business world.”
Kunz also told council: “I’m willing to give servitude to the town of Baie-d’Urfé to deviate the pipe. It would save the town of Baie-d’Urfé $1.4 million.”
The 43,846 square foot property is evaluated at $1.523 million.
Fletcher, who voted against the purchase offer, said the town does not have a mandate from taxpayers to purchase the land.
“My understanding is that this land has been for sale for at least four years,” he added. “I don’t think there is a rush to purchase this land. We can certainly wait 12 or 13 more days till our next regular council meeting when more participants are able to attend an evening meeting.”
For the record, Tutino noted that she was not aware of the Kunz plan either.
The mayor said the town had good reason for wanting to acquire the waterfront property.
“We have a major drainage pipe there that drains a good part of the town. We looked at different possibilities with regards to that. “(Last Wednesday), the (town’s) general manager shared with the council options with regards to how it could deal with that particular situation.”
“We don’t have a plan with regards to how that is going to be developed or not,” she added. “But during the public consultations, one of the things that came out by the citizens is that they would like to see more access to the waterfront. So this would be an opportunity for more waterfront green space.
“And there are many things that can be done there,” Tutino added. “But that is for a discussion for another time, another mandate, assuming the town buys the lot.”
Manning also voted against purchasing the property.
“This is not a budget item,” he told council. “It’s a major expenditure. It’s an impulse purchase. It hasn’t been studied enough. We already have (an empty lot) beside it.”
The town does own a waterfront lot several hundred feet away, but Tutino said diverting the draining pipe there would come at considerable expense and cause a huge disruption along Lakeshore Rd.
Afterward, Kunz, whose family has lived at 20100 Lakeshore Rd. for over 50 years, does not understand why the town wants to buy the neighbouring property now.
“It’s a mystery,” Kunz said. “And they have no plan what they’re going to do with it. It’s just because of this pipe.
“My family has been here for 56 and this pipe has been (in place) before that, and nobody even thought about the pipe or bothered about the pipe. All of a sudden it’s become an issue.”
But Tutino said the town made the right decision.
“I’m very concerned that if we don’t do this, we’ll be very sorry,” she said.
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