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Mount Royal Cemetery considering legal action over closure of Camillien-Houde Way

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The Mount Royal Cemetery is considering legal action against the City of Montreal as access to the site would be limited under plans to close Camillien-Houde Way to traffic.

In September, the city announced its plan to close the road to through traffic and convert it into a path for cyclists and pedestrians.

The 171-year-old cemetery is against the idea.

"We don't want that road to be closed because it's a significant impact for our customers," said Maxime Jacques, the cemetery's executive director.

Jacques had sent a letter from his lawyer to the city in September, claiming Montreal is acting illegally by ignoring a nearly century-old right-of-way agreement between the city and the cemetery. It was established when Mount Royal Park was being expanded.

"It was reinforced that we should always have access coming from east or west," Jacques said..

A traffic study by engineering company Cima+ also alerted the city to the 1928 agreement back in March.

The debate over traffic on Mount Royal goes back to 2017 after a cyclist was struck and killed. Camillien-Houde closed for several months as part of a pilot project, but the city's public consultation office found banning cars on the mountain just moved the traffic to surrounding streets.

Despite this, the city is forging ahead and plans to replace most of Camillien-Houde's asphalt with green space.

Jacques says it will limit access to the cemetery and too many cars will use it as a shortcut. To fix that, a gate at Camillien-Houde Way and Remembrance Road would have to be closed.

"Our roads are not meant to have an increased amount of traffic, we have multiple kilometres of scenic routes and that could just endanger more the population and visitors to our cemetery if we have added traffic in our roads," Jacques argued.

In a statement, the city says cemeteries are important institutions of Mount Royal and it is essential they are accessible.

"The cemeteries will continue to be accessible in the project as presented: by car or bus from the west, or via their entrances at the foot of the mountain on foot via this new road and the new paths that it will enable us to develop," reads the statement. 

"We are very sensitive to the concerns of families and cemetery owners, and we remain open to their development proposals, which we will be able to take into account in the detailed design of the project." 

The city declined to comment on the lawyer's letter.

"When you have an agreement in place, well, you should definitely respect it," Jacques said.

As the cemetery considers legal action, its lawyers are scheduled to meet with the city's lawyers in December.

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