Housing, businesses coming to Boucher Forest?
The real estate development company Regional Group has prepared a preliminary project for their Boucher Forest properties. According to Regional’s website, the Ottawa-based company wants to build a business park and an “ecological” residential project. Regional owns large lots along Vanier Road, north of Allumettières Boulevard, plus a large lot in the centre of the forest.
“The Regional Group has had an ecological project on their books for some time, but it’s not a priority,” said Richard Bégin, Deschênes councillor. “It was false to say four years ago that the forest was protected forever. The city continues working to consolidate the forest, which has environmentally sensitive areas that are undevelopable.” An “ecological neighbourhood” was also approved by the city for the Connaught racetrack area, along Aylmer Road, years ago.
Along with the Boucher Forest Foundation, Gatineau had been trying to protect the wooded area in the centre of western Gatineau. During the Bureau administration, council changed the zoning for the largest part of Boucher Forest to “X”, which stands for “aménagement différé” or deferred zoning. This imposes certain restrictions on building, but does not protect the forest, despite politicians’ assurances, since it is still possible to develop the land. Lots in the northwest part of the forest are zoned “H”, clearly for housing. Since that time, complete protection appears to have been shelved.
“In the (city’s) land-use management plan, this property is planned for residential and is within the urban perimeter, so it will happen sooner rather than later,” explained Lucerne’s councillor Mike Duggan.
However, Gatineau’s recently adopted land-use plan identifies Boucher Forest as an “Ecoterritory” (like Lac Beauchamp in the east). An ecoterritory means that the ecological footprint will be noted, and natural habitats will be protected. The plan hints that the city is considering creating a Boucher Forest Park in the next 5 to 10 years at an estimated cost of $5 million. The province also protects some habitats.
“I, with the Foundation and city services, continue to monitor the whole situation to protect the forest,” added Councillor Bégin.
Adrian Corbo, Boucher Forest Foundation President, is aware that the zoning permits development, but he insists that the foundation's goal remains the protection of the entire forest.
“We are working with the city, which is negotiating with private landowners to acquire (more) forest land,” added Corbo. The city can purchase lots or swap land. In 2015, the city was forced to buy land in the Boucher Forest after being sued by development companies for “disguised expropriation”. The city settled out of court, acquiring some of the land for over $4 million.
Apart from Regional Group, Transports Québec still owns a strip of land in Boucher Forest. It had acquired that land while planning the Highway 50 extension. Regional acquired their land in 2012 from two numbered Ontario companies.