Hudson, Que. mayor temporarily steps down over proposed wetlands bylaw

Jamie Nicholls, mayor of Hudson, Que. has taken a leave of absence, citing tensions in the town over a proposed bylaw that would have given additional protection to wetlands in the area.

The bylaw was proposed in October and the council is split 3-3 on the issue. Nicholls said he would have voted in favour to break the tie.

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The new bylaw would have seen a 30-metre buffer around the wetlands, restricting any kind of development or construction.

The problem with that, say opponents like Councillor Jim Duff, is that property owners with land that would’ve fallen in that buffer zone “were suddenly faced with losing 50 per cent or more of their backyards and even their houses in some cases to a wetland edict.”

But to Austin Rikely-Krindle, the main voice behind the proposed bylaw, that wasn’t the original intent.

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“Part of that was poor communication on our part,” he admitted.

He told Global News that the plan was to allow current owners to repair, maintain or rebuild current infrastructure, and that adding anything new into the wetland area would not have been permitted.

But even with that, Duff said, properties would still be devalued.

“What happens when you’re ready to sell and suddenly the buyer finds out there’s a constraint on development?” he asked, saying the idea was poorly thought out.

“It had to be done with full consultation and advanced knowledge given to all citizens.”

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Furthermore, he said the town paid for a study to see what would be the best way to protect the wetlands without putting residents at a disadvantage.

According to him, the results are expected next spring, and the proposed bylaw was rushed.

“Why not wait for the science?” Duff asked.

Public outcry against the restrictions was fierce, forcing Nicholls to step down temporarily

In a letter to residents, Nicholls said, “I see that my attachment to my personal vision and values … have increased divisions in the town and caused harm.

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“I apologize to all who lost sleep on this issue.”

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Rikely-Krindle said steps have been taken to amend the proposed bylaw.

“The staff and administration worked on some amendments to make it more palatable and to limit the impact on current owners,” Rikely-Krindle explained.

He fears, though, that this could allow developers to rush in before restrictions on development are put in place.

Residents are now waiting for the next step.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.