Difficult or Discerning?
City hall sometimes gets frustrated with Aylmer. An Aylmer councillor recently switched ridings, moving to the eastern part of Gatineau and citing residents’ general opposition to projects as a reason why.
It's true that many of us are locally involved, and are especially prudent when it comes to how our tax dollars are spent. We want good deals and well planned development.
There’s certainly a lot of opposition to the construction of ever more condos in the sector. The main reason is that while the city keeps encouraging more people to move to Aylmer, services and infrastructure haven’t been keeping up. Many projects in the area are only meant to replace pre-existing facilities such as the marina building and Place des pionniers. People wonder whether these projects are really necessary, and question how responsibly public funds are spent. The marina project cost more than $5,000,000, and there are still concerns about whether the design of the facilities are appropriate for a restaurant, including the size of the refrigeration units and the quality of the sanitation facilities.
As for Place des pionniers, the city’s own reports from 2008 stated that the building could be brought up to code for $4,000,000. Those same reports stated that the cost of demolishing the old structure and building a replacement would be at most $20,000,000 for 5 floors, and could be completed in just 9 months. These reports were provided by one of the largest engineering firms in the province, Genivar, a firm that was hired regularly by the city for other studies for years afterwards. Instead, the city decided to allocate $50,000,000 as of 2019 to replace the current building with a structure having three floors instead of five, and which would take at least three years to build. When justification was requested from the city as to why the costs were so high, the answer was simply that the situation was complicated. No evidence for why the original estimates were unrealistic was provided, despite projects like L’Initial and British Square costing a fraction of the price by the square meter.
Meanwhile, we have a serious lack of facilities for community events, a situation that becomes more problematic as the population grows. As Randy Daly pointed out in the edition of the Bulletin from November 17th, funding for basic services such as policing and fire fighting is also far less than ideal.
If the new administration wishes to build good will in Aylmer for new developments, the best way is to show that projects have the best interests of residents in mind, including those already here. Many see recent developments as designed simply to collect more taxes from densely built housing projects. New housing will be built, but our tax dollars should also be spent on improving services to current residents, such as substantially improving community activity space and making it more available in areas like Deschênes. Until then, it shouldn’t be surprising that residents’ reactions to the city’s proposals often aren’t exactly glowing.