Glenmount residents mull relaunching bid to secede from Montreal and become TMR citizens

For generations, people living in the Montreal enclave of Glenmount have had priority access to the Town of Mount Royal's sports and recreation facilities and programming, but that longstanding agreement is set to expire in December.

Residents of enclave, denied annexation in 1985, may try again if denied access to subsidized TMR programs

Christopher Deehy lives steps away from the Town of Mount Royal's southern border and says many neighbours want that border moved, including them in TMR. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

Talk of secession is brewing once again in a small Montreal enclave teeming with residents who feel more akin to their Town of Mount Royal neighbours than their fellow citizens in the borough of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.

The last time residents of Glenmount made a formal demand to be annexed to TMR was in 1985, when their request was denied by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. Now the threat of losing a popular borough subsidy has revived that collective desire to divorce from Côte-des-Neiges–NDG.

The borough pays $130,000 a year to provide Glenmount's 1,800 residents with access to TMR's municipal facilities and programming, but that subsidy has become a contentious issue in recent months.

"I just think that's a lot of money," borough Mayor Sue Montgomery told CBC. "We have a lot of demand in our borough."

Glenmounters are closer to TMR than Côte-des-Neiges

There are about 705 residences in the 30 hectares that make up the neighbourhood of Glenmount — a mix of single-family homes, duplexes and two large apartment blocks that sit between Laird Boulevard and Canora Avenue, just north of Jean-Talon Street.

TMR borders Glenmount on three sides, and with Canadian Pacific tracks and a busy boulevard to the south, residents are isolated from Côte-des-Neiges, but walking distance from almost everything the demerged city has to offer.

Residents of the Glenmount neighbourhood, seen here in red, are a short distance from TMR's sports and recreation facilities but much further from those in Côte-des-Neiges. (CBC)

So, Glenmount residents, despite being Montrealers, have long had the same privileges as TMR residents — enjoying equal access to the town's sports and recreation programs and facilities and summer camps, thanks to that longstanding agreement between the borough and TMR.

The subsidy predates the 2002 forced merger of Montreal municipalities — when Glenmount was briefly made part of the borough of TMR. When TMR residents voted to demerge four years later, the old municipal boundaries were re-established and so was the subsidy.

Perez, residents push for subsidy to continue

With non-profit organizations in NDG-CDN struggling to pay their staff a living wage, Montgomery says, the $130,000 annual expense could be better spent in the borough.

The subsidy, which is renewed every few years by borough council vote, is set to expire in December.

Negotiations are still underway, but the possibility that the deal won't be renewed doesn't sit well with Glenmount residents or their city councillor, opposition Ensemble Montréal Leader Lionel Perez.

For motorists heading east on Glencoe Avenue, the road divides at Frederick Todd Park. To the left, it heads into the Town of Mount Royal, to the right, to Montreal. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

"That subsidy was always there," said Francine Brodeur, a longtime Glenmount resident who was shocked to learn she may lose access to TMR's library.

"It was there for many years prior to when we arrived here, 30 years ago."

Some 500 Glenmount residents signed a petition this fall demanding the subsidy continue.

At last month's borough council meeting, Perez's proposed motion to renew the subsidy was supported by Coun. Marvin Rotrand but ultimately rejected by Montgomery and her Projet Montréal majority.

Ending the subsidy "will affect the quality of life" of Glenmount residents who grow up attending schools, summer camps and recreational programs in TMR, said Perez.

TMR has English-language stop signs and strict four-hour parking limits. Steps away, Montreal's say 'arrêt,' and there is a smorgasbord of parking rules. (Isaac Olson/CBC)
Where a sign marks the start of Montreal's city limits in the middle of Lockhart Avenue headed west, road construction begins in the neighbourhood of Glenmount. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

The subsidy also encourages active transit at a reasonable cost to taxpayers, he said, because rather than walk, Glenmounters would have to drive over the train tracks and past the busy boulevards to get to Côte-des-Neiges.

"The costs that we are going to be paying TMR are essentially the same costs if these people were to be using most of our facilities in Côte-des-Neiges," Perez said.

Montgomery is proposing the borough pay about $20,000 for Glenmount residents to get TMR access cards.

If TMR agrees to that proposal, Glenmounters would have to pay non-resident fees to participate in TMR programs, but they would still have the same level of access as TMR residents, Montgomery said.

A commuter train runs through the eastern sector of Glenmount where Lockhart, Trenton and Brookfield avenues, all adjacent to Canora station, are split between TMR and Montreal. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

"To me it's a good compromise, and I think the residents would be happy with that," she said. "But we're still negotiating. So it's not a done deal yet."

Not all Glenmount residents 'well to do'

Perez said TMR would be reluctant to accept that lower subsidy rate, based on what he's heard from municipal officials there.

TMR spokesperson Alain Côté declined to share details about the ongoing subsidy negotiations, but he said TMR has "always enjoyed serving the Glenmount residents."

Sitting on Jean-Talon Street, a stone's throw from the CP train tracks, is one of two large-scale apartment blocks that house hundreds of Glenmount residents. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

The president of Glenmount's residents association, Christopher Deehy, doesn't like Montgomery's idea.

"About a third of the residents live in the two apartment blocks that are in the area, so not everyone is necessarily well to do," he said.

Deehy said forcing residents to pay non-resident fees in TMR for activities penalizes the hundreds of low-income residents who don't have the financial means to pay the higher fees.

When Deehy helped collect those 500 petition signatures this fall, he said many residents suggested pursuing annexation again — something his association has the mandate to fight for, if necessary.

"At this point, we have not made a decision to actually do that."

It's widely believed that Glenmount was part of the Town of Mount Royal when TMR was founded in 1912, and only ceded to Montreal in the 1940s, but the town's records show Glenmount was only included in TMR from 2002-2006, when it was briefly turned into a Montreal borough. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

Glenmount residents are waiting to hear what borough officials decide.

The first hope is that the subsidy, which he said works out to about $80 per Glenmount resident annually, will continue.

"I understand the borough has other needs, but the borough does have the money, and the city doesn't offer us any services in the neighbourhood," he said. "We're cut off geographically from the rest of the city."

About the Author

Isaac Olson has been a Montreal-area journalist for more than a decade. Follow him on Twitter: @Isaac_J_Olson


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