Infrastructure Keeping Pace with Growth
Aylmer’s population is rising faster than anywhere else in the region. This is quite easy to see, given the number of construction projects popping up around our neighbourhoods, almost all of which are condos. The latest to be making the news are sizable plans on Samuel Eddy just north of the public pool, and another project near the corner of Vanier and Aylmer Road.
No one denies that more housing is needed in Gatineau, given skyrocketing rent and real estate prices. We all hope that the city’s urban planning approach to Aylmer is optimized to meet these needs.
What annoys residents is that infrastructure is not keeping pace at all with the city’s clear desire to focus densification efforts on the western regions of Gatineau. Roads are a main concern, as it will be very difficult to expand beyond Allumetières, Aylmer Road and Lucerne Boulevard. Public transit options have improved markedly over the last number of years, but many wonder if current plans will be enough, particularly in Wychwood, Aylmer North and on the Plateau.
Yet the infrastructure problems go well beyond transport. Aylmer’s Fire Chief, Denis Doucet, recently warned the city’s council that those in Aylmer run substantially higher risks in terms of fire security than elsewhere in the city. This is largely due to the lack of fire stations and firefighters in our neighbourhoods. There are only two stations, on Wilfrid Lavigne and St. Raymond, to cover a very large area. Mr. Doucet pointed out that many homes in Aylmer are unlikely to have 10 firefighters present in 10 minutes in an emergency, the general norm in terms of safety. The planned construction of a new fire station on McConnell Road in 2026 will certainly help, but given the continued speed of residential construction, this project should have been kicked off years ago.
The situation with the number of police officers and stations is similar. The council was reminded of how urgent the situation is by the Chief of Police, Luc Beaudoin. As with fire safety, it’s comforting to know that the city is studying the situation and looking for solutions, but the question again is why it’s happening so late into Aylmer’s densification.
Schools are the same story. The new high school built near the public pool in Aylmer is very welcome, but for years Grande Rivière was resorting to temporary shelter space to accommodate numbers of students that far exceeded its capacity.
Urban planning at the city often suffers from a lack of transparency, with a certain divide between the activities of elected officials and those of civil servants who approve new housing projects. It’s important that residents are able to follow the process of planning for urban development to ensure projects address the needs of those who will take up residence in new buildings, as well as those of long-time residents. We’ve seen in the past that certain aspects may not get the attention they deserve. Transparency will help ensure such a situation doesn’t repeat itself in the future.