I hear almost daily from people telling us to stop giving building permits or to stop development. Even if we wanted to do that, it is totally impossible at this point and for many reasons. I wanted to explain why so that people can better understand the challenges that all municipalities in Quebec face in terms of development and municipal management.
In order to break the document down into different sections for easier reading, I will be posting as a series over the next few days or weeks (depending on my schedule). [This is the fourth part of the series]
Here are the points that will be covered:
- Population growth
- Housing shortage
- Labour shortage
- Our Obligations
- Our Resources and infrastructures
- The Law
- Dependence on property taxes
- Solution: better development
 Our Obligations
A municipality assumes responsibilities for development and urban planning, housing, roads, community and cultural development, recreation, urban public transit, wastewater treatment, etc. (Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l’Habitation-MAMH).
There are many laws and guidelines that determine what a municipality can do in Quebec. For example, in terms of land use planning, Saint-Lazare MUST conform and be in concordance with the Schéma d’aménagement of the MRC, and the Plan métropolitain d’aménagement de la CMM (PMAD) as well as the orientations of the provincial government.
Plan métropolitain d’aménagement et de développement du Grand Montréal (PMAD)
The municipalities and MRCs of Greater Montreal, like Saint-Lazare, must integrate the Plan’s objectives into their local planning tools. According to the CMM, the PMAD, which has been in effect since 2012, aims to develop living environments that are densified, safe and better served by proximity services. To achieve this, the PMAD defines an urbanization perimeter for development.
In yellow below, is the defined urbanization perimeter of the Town of Saint-Lazare.
The City’s urban plan (bylaw 770) indicates an increase in the density of housing within the village core and the sector of Route de la Cité-des-Jeunes (medium density housing allocation and urban commercial allocation) serviced by two services (water and sewer), in accordance with the minimum densities prescribed in the PMAD and the MRC’s schéma d’aménagement.
According to the metropolitan and regional requirements, the minimum density prescribed for the coming years in those sectors is as follows:
- 2022 to 2026: 16 dwellings per hectare
- 2027 to 2031: 18 dwellings per hectare
In response to the housing shortage, the density of dwellings per hectare will most likely be revised upwards when the PMAD is updated by the CMM in the near future.
Low Occupancy Density
In the sectors within the urbanization perimeter that have only one service (aqueduct) or no service at all (only septic systems and wells), the development provisions prescribed in the MRC’s schéma d’aménagement must maintain a low density of occupation for sectors A (housing allocation area in a wooded sector) and B (equestrian allocation area) while still maintaining a coherent development according to their particularities.
Outside the urban perimeter
While densification is prioritized in the village core area and the eastern part of the city, construction outside the urbanization perimeter is restricted, and only possible on existing streets (no new street openings is possible). This really limits what can be done in this sector and can also ensure that no residential development will be built while this provision is in effect. The largest area outside the urban perimeter is primarily west of Côte St. Charles to the 201. This area also represents zones of very high ecological value, the CMM’s woodlands and metropolitan forest corridors, as well as a large part of our aquifer recharge area.
Conclusion: In accordance with metropolitan and regional requirements, certain sectors within the urbanization perimeter have been identified on the territory of Saint-Lazare to accommodate a higher residential density for development (vacant lots) and redevelopment of spaces for residential or mixed use. In order to restrict construction outside the urbanization parameter and limit urban sprawl, the CMM and governmental orientations requires municipalities to develop and maximize development within the urbanization parameter. This is an obligation that the Town of Saint-Lazare cannot avoid and various penalties could be imposed if we do not follow what is prescribed by higher governments. Despite this, there are ways, through various regulations, to ensure that development is done in a sustainable manner and is well controlled. I will talk more about this in the last section of this series.
Coming up in the next section: Our resources and infrastructures