Martin C. Barry
During a special sitting of Rosemère town council on May 21 to deal with some significant items between regular council meetings, council voted unanimously to approve a $20,000 expenditure to pay for the creation of new community gardens on land behind the Externat Sacré-Cœur and at Val-des-Ormes School.
While special council meetings are usually convened on such short notice that few residents ever attend, this particular meeting drew the interest of at least half a dozen residents with concerns about community gardens projects.
A surprising turnout
“This is a bit of a surprise. We weren’t expecting to see a crowd like this today,” Mayor Eric Westram said, somewhat astonished by the turnout.
In recent years, town officials with the current as well as past administrations tried unsuccessfully to launch a community garden project in Hamilton Park just west of Labelle Blvd., in spite of the objections of local residents of that area. The town had previously budgeted $30,000 for the deferred Hamilton Park project.
Some of them turned up at last week’s special council meeting. Among them was Wendy Gurd who wondered whether the latest development would impact her neighbourhood. As the mayor explained, the new community gardens are a “first phase” that will be taking place in conjunction with the schools.
Gardens and tree renewal
In addition to gardening spaces at the two schools that will be accessible for planting and growing by residents, the town also announced the planting of 600 trees in a wooded area behind Externat Sacré-Coeur that became the property of Rosemère some years back. The community gardens, which will be located on school property, will be run on a cooperative basis by students and teachers with residents from Rosemère.
“Following these arrangements and following the popularity, if these community gardens turn out to be popular we will see during a second phase the possibility of pursuing an idea we had at the start of doing this elsewhere,” Westram told Gurd. “But for now, the first phase is to do this in these two locations. So, if your question was about Hamilton Park, there won’t be anything at Hamilton Park this year.”
Gurd asked whether the schools and the town have agreed firmly on the sharing arrangement for the community gardens. “And they’re okay with that? You’re taking up part of theirs,” she said. “It was they who approached us,” said Councillor Stépĥanie Nantel.
Questioned further on the possibility of Hamilton Park becoming the site of a future community garden, Westram replied, “If a decision is made to return to Hamilton Park, it will be done in consultation with the people in that area. We could go to Hamilton just as we could go elsewhere. We have no preconceived ideas: it’s one brick at a time. One project at a time. We’re putting community gardens in these two schools and we’ll see how that goes.”
Opponents had petitioned
Some of those attending the meeting had previously gathered and submitted a petition signed by residents around Hamilton Park opposing a community garden in their area. (At the time, Westram had also questioned the methods used by the petition gatherers, while suggesting the petition wasn’t truly representative.)
“I won’t be launching into a debate today because this is not the place for it and we’re not there yet,” he said last week. “If we reach a point where there’s a possibility, we will make sure that the population of the area is in favour.” According to Mayor Westram, the agreement between the town and the schools was only finalized on the same day of the special council meeting, which was why there was so little public notice given.