MONTREAL - The expansion of the Montreal General Hospital was met with considerable opposition at a consultation meeting held Monday night.

The hospital's location on the southwestern slope of Mount Royal makes any expansion a contentious issue of Les Amis de la Montagne, a group which has fought in the past to make sure new construction does not compromise the integrity and borders of Montreal's landmark park space.

"We don't understand the justification for the expansion outside the existing footprint of the hospital," said Gabrielle Korn, communications director for Les Amis de la Montagne.

The fear is the precedent permitting such an expansion would create.

"What we fear is that this will never stop," said Dinu Bumbaru of Heritage Montreal.

The Montreal General Hospital's expansion plan has actually been downsized since 2008. It is three wings lighter, two of which were slated to house the Montreal Neurological Institute. It has since been decided the institute will not move to the site. The project would give the hospital a new emergency room, and all patient rooms would be converted into single units.

But there is opposition to including a building at 1750 Cedar, immediately to the west of the existing hospital site, into the expansion plan. The building would be used to house a medical centre of the Montreal General and administrative offices for the McGill University Hospital Centre.

"This is another bad precedent," said neighbouring resident Judith Kavanagh."It just lets institutions get bigger and bigger on the mountain."

The MUHC insists the additional building is required to bring the Montreal General Hospital up to modern-day standards.

"We're bringing a project that also brings a lot of benefits," said Pierre Major, the MUHC's associate director. "I didn't talk about all of the green roofs, the green space that we're adding to the site, the link that will give a better connectivity to the mountain."

Residents say it could be a slippery slope, and they feel threatened

"What happens if you need more space?" Kavanagh asked. "Are you going to expropriate the rest of the residents?"

The building at 1750 Cedar adds a little over 4,000 square metres to the land area of the expansion project proposed in 2008, seeing as the elements that have been dropped are by and large vertical ones. The total coverage of the lot would increase just 4 per cent, from 38 per cent in 2008 to 42 per cent with the additional building.

The MUHC says that all existing views of the mountain will be preserved, that traffic in the area would see less of an increase under the current plan as the one approved in 2008 and that access to the mountain would be improved.

You can read the MUHC's expansion proposal here.