Chelsea Mayor Fouls Her Own Nest: Or the Real Cost of Destroying Gatineau Park and Killing Meech Lake Habitat
The Chelsea mayor is howling like a banshee in the local press and on the CBC, threatening to take the NCC to court over what she says is a shortfall in payments in lieu of taxes (PILT). It seems the “non-muncipal-tax-paying leaf peepers flocking to Gatineau Park,” have sent a colony of bats flying into her worship’s bee bonnet...
Moreover, it seems Green is completely out of her tree over the amount she claims is owed: on the one hand she said it was $175,000 in October, and then—because the NCC is ignoring her brazen attempt at a greedy cash grab—she told CBC Ottawa in November that Chelsea was owed $242,000... Seems like she's fast and loose with the facts and figures... What grossly overinflated amount will she claim next?
I don’t know what the specifics of the dispute are, but I know the NCC coughed up $950,892.93 in PILT’s to Chelsea in 2017, and brought that figure down to $837,858.93 in 2018 (in 1987, that amount was $130,813.47). I still think that’s way too much money because the large majority of NCC properties are vacant and get very little in terms of services... no water or sewers, no policing (the NCC has its own constables...), no garbage or recycling pickup.
Besides, in her blinkered, risisble and greedy quest for more cash, the mayor doesn’t for a moment consider that all those new tax revenues from all those new businesses and residential constructions are very largely a result of people wanting to use and be near Gatineau Park. All she wants is more money—the health, habitat and integrity of Gatineau Park be damned...
And so much for the ridiculous memorandum of understanding and cooperation signed between the municipality and the NCC last spring... And so much for Chelsea's motto "the environment friendly community."
By any stretch of the imagination, it can easily be argued that the municipality of Chelsea is a cancer rotting away Gatineau Park's ecological and territorial integrity. Good examples of this destruction come in the form of the residential proliferation destroying the Meech Lake shoreline (11 new buildings since 2006; 119 structures built without permit on the shoreline--79 of them in the water, which the NCC owns), and the tons of gravel and road salt Chelsea dumps into the water...
Every study on the health of Meech Lake has identified private properties as the main human source of phosphorous (which causes blue-green algae), particularly from owners’ waste water and use of lawn fertilizers. In particular, one study noted that Chelsea dumps 10 to 15 tons of gravel and road salt along Meech Lake Road every year, while another found that residents account for 66% of the human-produced phosphorous that is slowly killing the lake (Dickman and Johnson 1975; Dryade 1989; Eco-Recherches 1983; Lait 2018).
This latest move suggests that Green has risen to the level of her own incompetence. Unable or unwilling to enforce the shoreline renaturalization bylaw at Meech Lake, a decade after its adoption, too craven to stop residential proliferation along the shoreline and in the park, she’s now making a national embarrassment of herself with a juvenile attempt to swill more money from the public trough.
Maybe the NCC should start charging Chelsea for destroying the Meech Lake shoreline and habitat... What is the cost of killing the lake that is the essential feature of Gatineau Park?
High time for the NCC to issue demolition orders for the 79 lakebed structures built at Meech without permit. Way past time for the NCC to start using its powers of expropriation to stop all construction in the park. Failing that, the federal government should use its power to impose a development freeze, a power confirmed by the courts (Munro v. NCC).
If the mayor is looking for revenue, all she has to do is send notices of offences to all the residents of Meech Lake who are violating bylaw 137-09. According to a 2013 study by the Municipality of Chelsea, some 80 per cent of Meech Lake residents are still violating this bylaw, which provides for the renaturalization of the shoreline to prevent the spread of blue-green algae. The bylaw stipulates penalties ranging from $300 to $4,000 for violators. Moreover, Section 18 says that violations lasting more than one day will be considered as distinct violations and that fines could be issued for each day violations took place. The bylaw came into force on May 12, 2011— 2,742 days ago. A single fine sent to a single violator would allow the municipality to collect $822,600! So, if 61 Meech Lake residents are violating the bylaw (80% of 77 Meech Lake residents = 61), and if we multiply 61 by $822,600, violators owe Chelsea more than $50 million in fines.
Note: See as well: "Chelsea demands NCC cough up $175K, "by Hunter Cresswell, Low Down to Hull and Back, October 17, 2018. Below is the link to the cowardly and ignorant CBC Ottawa report that inspired this op-ed. I say cowardly and ignorant because CBC Ottawa, again, presents park residents as victims rather than as agents of Gatineau Park's ongoing ecological destruction.