Cottage owners in a small community near Morin Heights are frustrated with the town council’s insistence on building a road along St-Francois-Xavier Lake — one residents say is not only expensive, but also unnecessary.
“Over the past several weeks and months and years, actually, we’ve seen this push for this road and we believe first of all that this road is not required at all,” said local home and landowner John Wilson.
Wilson is one of 38 landowners who would be on the hook for the cost of the new six-metre-wide road that Wentworth-North’s municipal council is proposing in the Thurston sector of town. The road would cost an estimated $1,276,223 to build.
The landowners would owe between $15,000 and more than $200,000 based on the size of their lots. In Wilson's case, he would owe $50,391, spread out over 10 or 20 years.
“All we’ve seen is a hell-bent approach to drive a road in there at any cost,” Wilson said.
In order to force a referendum on the road’s building, cottage owners need to sign a register in person.
“We need 15 people who are co-owners or owners of property who are registered on the municipal elections list and who are there in person,” Wilson's daughter Kerianne said.
The problem is that many of the cottage’s owners are not in town.
While some residents only have to travel from Montreal to sign the register, other cottage owners live much further — in Nunavut and Bermuda, for example.
With the lake still frozen over until earlier this month, many are still away.
Kerianne said it was way too early in the season to have a truly democratic debate on the road because most of the people who will be affected aren’t around to protest.
Mayor André Genest said cottage owners were notified by registered letter more than two months ago about needing to sign the register if they wanted to hold a referendum.
"We decided to advise people by letter. If we don't want to have a democratic process, we don't advise the people themselves. We'd only put it in newspapers, and we'd make it in February ... That's not what we did."
Genest said the road is necessary for people to service their septic tanks. He said town officials are concerned about outhouses leaking into the lake.
"The municipality has to be sure that all the septic tanks are OK for the protection of the lake," Genest said.
Kerianne said that many of the cottages in the Thurston sector built their septic tanks by bringing in supplies by boat, and said residents were considering bringing in a barge to service the septic tanks.
She said there’s no reason why people can’t continue to use boats instead of cars.
Her father John, who is a member of the lake health committee, is concerned about soil erosion and destroying wetlands with the proposed road.
He said the committee has asked for an environmental impact study, but has received nothing to date.
Genest told CBC News that the environmental impact study was included when the plans for the road were drawn up.