Municipal officials have unveiled plans for a massive development project in Pierrefonds-Roxboro, including more than 5,500 new homes, on a nearly untouched stretch of land in the western part of the borough.
Mayor Denis Coderre says the project strikes a balance between urban development and environmental protection.
"We are creating a kind of new model where we are cherishing the environment but we are also enhancing the quality of life of people and it is part of the bigger plan," he said Friday.
'What they are trying to do now is instead of calling it a development project, they are calling it a conservation project.'- Justine McIntyre,Pierrefonds city councillor
Under the plan, from a total area of 365 hectares of grassland and wilderness, 180 hectares will be added to the l'Anse-à-l'Orme nature park, while 185 hectares will be developed.
In addition to the new homes, Coderre said the development will also feature shops, offices, schools and parks.
Coderre said the new area will have social and affordable housing and the preference would be to have green buildings included in the plan.
The project is meant to encourage more families to stay on the island of Montreal, he said.
Project would destroy rare green space, critics say
Opposition Projet Montréal says the city should favour development in neighbourhoods that already exist, instead of creating a new one.
"Of course we need more houses on the island, we need more houses in Pierrefonds-Roxboro, but there is a very big potential in the historical Pierrefonds-Roxboro neighbourhood," said Eric Alan Caldwell, a Projet Montréal councillor.
Justine McIntyre, a city councillor for Pierrefonds, said Coderre's plan has major gaps.
"What we saw today is public relations," she said. "What they are trying to do now is instead of calling it a development project, they are calling it a conservation project."
She worried the new neighbourhood will cause even more congestion on Highway 40.
A local conservation group is also concerned the project will destroy an area of rare biodiversity.
"It's just a beautiful space," said Ross Stitt, a member of Save l'Anse a l'Orme.
The group has started an online petition against the project. The petition argues that "natural areas in proximity to urban centres play a very important role as buffer zones and deserve to be preserved."