Montreal's suburbs take city to court over sidewalk spat
The mayors of suburban Montreal municipalities do not want to pay for sidewalk construction in the Plateau Mont Royal, and so they've filed a lawsuit against the city.
The heart of the issue is a $24.7 million project to transform St. Andre St. into a bicycle boulevard.
Earlier this year, Montreal passed a bylaw to change the north-south street so that it will give priority to cyclists and pedestrians, but force drivers to turn onto other streets and so not be able to proceed along the street's entire length between Cherrier St and Laurier Ave.
Paying for Montreal's bicycle network is the responsibility of the urban agglomeration, which will cover 35 per cent of the project.
Representatives of the suburban cities say they have no problem paying their share of the bill that is related to bike lanes, but object to a $285,000 charge associated with moving hydro poles to create a wide sidewalk for pedestrians.
Beny Masella, the president of the Association of Suburban Municipalities, said the amount is low but it would set a damaging precedent.
"It's about the principle. It's setting a precedent. There's a very clear line on what's to be included, what's bicycle paths, and we want to be very sure a court defines what's to be included and what's not to be included. It's a precedent-setting thing," said Masella. Where does it stop? Where does it stop after? A little bit more, a little bit more and that's our major concern.”
Masella says there was similar dispute a few months ago over who would pay for a borough's computer system. Ultimately the city backed down on asking the suburbs to fund part of it. He says this latest fight shows the blurred line of municipal law.
“Bylaws are all about how they're interpreted. You can ask five people to read that rule and five people will interpret it differently,” he said.
The City of Montreal declined to comment because the matter is now before the courts.
At the most recent agglomeration council this past June, Benoit Dorais, the president of Montreal's executive committee, said the agglomeration's view of the bicycle contract was too restrictive.
“The idea of a bicycle route is an integrated vision of the street and sidewalks,” said Dorais.
Masella disagreed with that assessment.
“They're interpreting the law a little bit too broadly to include sidewalks that belong to the agglomeration. We're saying that we don't believe those sidewalks belong to the agglomeration, it's not part of the bicycle path and so that should be a local responsibility rather than an agglomeration responsibility," said Masella.
Quebec Superior Court will now ultimately make the decision.
Construction on St. Andre St. began earlier this year and is scheduled to end in November 2019.