Family feeling the strain as neighbours push back over zoning change

Family feeling the strain as neighbours push back over zoning change
Family feeling the strain as neighbours push back over zoning change

Frank Bomba (left to right), Ken Matziorinis and Faz Sham, who reside on Eldor-Daigneault St. in Pierrefonds, are fighting a zoning amendment to prevent a 80-child daycare from being built nearby over concerns about traffic. Peter McCabe / MONTREAL GAZETTE

Yvan Hortie hasn’t slept much in the last two months. Hortie has lived and worked on a property on Gouin Blvd. in Pierrefonds all his life. He transports landscaping materials including gravel and dirt. His son, Sylvain, runs a snow-removal business on the same piece of land. Hortie’s brother, Luc, runs an excavation business on a small portion of the family property.

It’s been that way for decades.

Two months ago, their lives turned upside down. Hortie sold a portion of the land, which backs onto Eldor Daigneault St. The new owner wants to build a daycare.  

Residents who live on Wilfrid and Eldor Daigneault streets were furious to hear about the project. They said they weren’t properly informed about the plan; the daycare would destroy the tranquility of the two residential streets; the streets weren’t configured to absorb the extra traffic in a secure and a daycare should not be built right next door to a business, which uses noisy, diesel-fuelled machinery.

Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough mayor Jim Beis informed them that the land was zoned commercial and that a daycare was allowed. Because building a daycare did not involve a zoning change, they could not protest the project through the referendum process.

So they shifted their focus to Hortie who had requested zoning amendments to officially allow the businesses on his property to continue functioning. Those zoning amendments can be challenged through the referendum process. Neighbours made it clear they are committed to launching the process.

“Unfortunately, I do feel this is a form of retaliation,” opposition councillor and borough-mayor candidate Justine McIntyre said. “People were not comfortable with the way the (daycare) file was handled. They felt like the project fell out of the sky, so now they are lashing out.”

The land has been in the Hortie family for 150 years. It was zoned agricultural and then commercial. Hortie Sr. told the Montreal Gazette that it was even, very briefly, residential, but his father, on the advice of municipal councillor Eldor Daigneault, requested commercial zoning. The family was under the impression they could run various sorts of commercial businesses on the property because of what is called an acquired right or “grandfather clause.”

But two months ago, neighbours began to question the Horties’ right to do so, so the borough investigated. The acquired right was not written into the current zoning, so Hortie was told to request a zoning amendment.

“I was born and raised on that property,” Sylvain Hortie said. “I’ve been operating my snow-removal business since 1995. The neighbours knew full well that we existed when they bought their homes. This is so frustrating.”

Hortie Sr. is a cancer survivor and wants to slow down. The plan was to shut down the transport business after he retired and for the snow-removal business to continue functioning.  The second draft of the zoning amendment was adopted during the council meeting, Monday. If the request for a register is accepted, it will be held following the Nov. 5 municipal election.

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