It was a standing-room-only full house, October 2, 2018 at Laval City Hall as numerous fiery issues erupted, with a large number of concerned and outraged citizens going on the attack.
Locals came in droves to demand answers on a variety of concerns: poor services, unfinished roads, street drainage and blockage, lack of parking, useless bicycle lanes, ignored speed limits, green space, use of cannabis, lack of providing children’s activities in newer developments, and problems surrounding construction of the Laval Aquatic Complex. In a snapshot, the issues appear limitless, and the “fever” rages high amongst Lavallers.
Undeniably, Mayor Demers and the 21 Councilors have their hands full in Quebec’s third largest city, population 430,000. As the city continues to boom with explosive construction sites, so do problems which don’t seem to be resolved in a timely manner, causing anger and frustration among affected residents. So wages the war, and these are a few of the major battles, with some residents fully believing that yes, you can fight city hall.
The parking crisis
The parking war continues, particularly in Zone 16 – streets in the proximity of Concorde Metro, and Zone 17 – near Montmorency CEGEP as central Laval expands, and parking becomes rare. Residents want swift solutions. People living around Urbania, Montmorency, and Place Bell are overwhelmed by cars. “It’s a living hell” – was the general sentiment.
Resident Etien Sakr requested that besides residential vignettes, visitors’ vignettes are needed to accommodate guests since they have to drive endlessly to find parking. “It’s one of the worst neighborhoods to park in,” he stated, upset and impassioned. While the description paints a dire picture of the fierce game of parking space musical chairs in Zones 16 and 17, the complainant illustrated the lengths drivers will go to when faced with an acute parking shortage. Community groups in the area have long decried the excessive lack of parking. Still no viable long-lasting solution.
Residential permits solve only part of the problem. To exclusively say that certain streets are only for residents goes against the professed model of vibrancy considering the city’s long-range vision of urban growth. Too often, complaints about parking are addressed in politically expedient ways by Councilors anxious to placate angry residents. Firmly and unanimously, it was requested of Council to review policies on residential parking and proposed visitors permits to achieve balance and appease taxpayers.
In a post-meeting interview, mayor Demers told TLN, “Part of the problem has been solved when it comes to Place Bell. The near-by shopping centers rent their parking space for special events in order to accommodate and alleviate the parking situation.” “A band-aid solution for now,” murmured by-standers.
Up in smoke over pot
The ramifications of legalized marijuana keep popping up as City Hall prepares for the reality that is rapidly approaching on October 17. Municipalities are at the sharp end of the dilemma, and it’s no different for Laval. City governments will have the bulk of responsibility to enforce regulations. Laval residents have their concerns and want answers.
Val-de-Brises resident Mario LeBrun asked Council to implement by-laws/regulations prohibiting smoking cannabis anywhere which is deemed public domain, such as parks, open-air shopping centers, schools, etc, as 85 other cities are doing. City Hall hasn’t assessed the depths of potential regularity headaches, but it will have to make sensible recommendations to taxpayers, and to the province. Difficult decisions and challenges are ahead. Is this as simple as the regulation of cigarette smoking in or around public areas? “No way”, says Le Brun, “even though cigarettes kill and they’re sold anyway.”
Undoubtedly, the unwritten law of unintended consequences will kick in along with the new marijuana laws and restrictions. Apparent from questions asked at the Council meeting, this greatly worries residents who insisted on assurances that children will not come into harm’s way. “These are paramount values in our society, and they shouldn’t be messed with,” stated Mr. LeBrun to TLN. It was obvious, by the concerns voiced by Mr. LeBrun, speaking on behalf of many, that freedoms are sacred and must be above and beyond the reach of any intrusive government. City Hall must make provision by implementing by-laws/regulations regarding legitimate apprehensions – the consumption of cannabis in public areas. Residents want their rights and freedoms respected. It’s up to the mayor and councilors to act in good faith and respect taxpayers’ requests. It didn’t end here.
Aquatic Complex: costs and delays; bike paths: useless and dangerous
Mr. LeBrun also asked about construction of the Val-des-Brises Viaduct whose progress seems stifled, and about the costs of the Aquatic Complex on Terry Fox Avenue near the Cosmodome, scheduled for completion in 2020. The initial cost of $61.1 million has substantially increased, an unaccountable increment for a facility which might not even be ready for the 2020 Quebec Games to be hosted by Laval. Mr. LeBrun stated at the meeting, “In my opinion, the Laval administration is not dependable.” When will the Aquatic Complex be delivered? No response.
Construction of new bicycle lanes is another bone of contention. “The whole thing is ridiculous,” said a resident of a neighborhood with many young families. Despite new bike lanes, there is more traffic congestion, confusion among drivers, and frustration that cyclists don’t appear to be using the dedicated lanes. Yes, cyclists need to be accommodated, but at what cost, since there are streets in Laval where the paths are a financial waste, and a cause of aggravation for drivers.
During intermission, when TLN asked Saint-Bruno Councilor and Deputy Mayor David De Cotis why there were so many disgruntled residents in an uproar at the meeting, he quickly responded, “Citizens have lost faith in the administration.”