Thursday, January 07, 2016

Register in Outremont could stop zoning change affecting new synagogues 

Last month, the borough adopted a controversial zoning change that would restrict the opening of new synagogues, mosques and churches to an industrial area in the northwest part of the borough, near the railway tracks.

The borough said it wants to create “winning conditions that would favour the frequenting of its commercial streets. But the borough’s Hasidic Jewish community says the change doesn’t take into account the needs of their growing community, which is about 25 per cent of the population.

On Monday, the borough will release details about a public register that could allow opponents to force a referendum on the bylaw change. Normally, only residents living in the immediate area near Bernard and Laurier Aves. would be permitted to vote in the register. However, residents who live in adjacent zones can petition the borough to allow them to vote in the register.

With widespread opposition to the project from the Hasidic Jewish community, a referendum will likely be held if enough people sign the register. “In this case, everything suggests that we are heading for a referendum,” said borough spokesperson, Sylvain Leclerc. “There are groups of citizens mobilizing.”

Before the council adopted the bylaw in December, a lawyer’s letter was sent to the borough on behalf of two Hasidic community members, Jacob Karmel and Alex Werzberger, promising to challenge the zoning changes in court. The letter, from the firm Grey Casgrain, said the zoning changes do not take into account the needs of the religious communities and are not based on a demographic study. It adds that the area chosen for new places of worship is difficult to access and would require a walk of between 20 and 30 minutes. The letter points out that observant Jews are not permitted to use their vehicles on Saturdays.

The letter asks the borough to suspend the zoning change and proceed with a proper demographic study and a study on accessibility to determine the real needs of citizens. Lawyer Julius Grey, who signed the letter, said on Wednesday that he believes that the bylaw is too restrictive, especially considering the Hasidic community is a fast-growing community.

The borough received the letter but is proceeding with the register as is required by law, Leclerc said.


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