A popular Vaudreuil swimming hole may soon be filled with landfill, paved over and topped with single-family homes, if the developer who owns the land has anything to say about it.
Benjamin Wygodny says the Lac Chérie property belongs to his company and that Vaudreuil residents who’ve been swimming in it for years are technically trespassing.
The swimming hole began as a quarry that was dug out during the construction of Highway 40 beginning in 1959.
But once the highway was built, the quarry fell out of use. It filled with water and became an ecological site in Vaudreuil-Dorion.
Birds and other wildlife call the quarry home, and locals use it to cool off on hot summer days.
Whether it’s a lake or a quarry is up to a court judge to decide, says Vaudreuil Mayor Guy Pilon.
If it’s a lake, there would be more strict development rules; if it’s a quarry, developer Wygodny can do whatever he wants.
Meanwhile, the pump installed to drain the water from the quarry is still whirring away, despite a notice from the Quebec government demanding Wygodny stop all work on the site until a decision can be reached.
“The pump is on right now and it's running,” says Gerry Sly, a Vaudreuil resident who lives nearby.
He says the quarry has been left to the elements for so long that it’s become a valuable green space.
“He’s waited so long to develop it that now it’s become a natural resource,” Sly says.
Another resident, Marshall Raikles, even placed garbage cans there that he and his wife routinely empty in order to keep the space clean.
They bought their home a couple of years ago, and Raikles says he was never told about building plans for the quarry at the time.
“It’s not what we were told when we bought in this area,” he says.
“They told us they were going to be building around the quarry, very nice homes. Never once was it mentioned that they were going to fill in the quarry,” Raikles continues.
Originally, says mayor Pilon, the developer presented a plan for a condo community in order to preserve the quarry-lake and some of the wooded areas on the property.
But when presented to residents at a council meeting, it was rejected by the majority of them.
And so the developer revised the plan to make single-family homes.
Pilon says the new plan means the developer can’t make nearly as much money as he could with the condo project, and so the developer now wants to fill in the quarry to maximize room to build on the lot.
Wygodny told CBC News the land is his property, and he can do with it what he pleases.
Quebec’s Environment Ministry says it issued a warning to Wygodny, telling him to stop the work he’s doing immediately pending a decision on the status of the defunct quarry.
The ministry, however, would not comment on what the consequences would be if he didn’t shut the pump off.