WESTMOUNT – In 2014, Westmount inaugurated its new $40 million Westmount Recreation Centre, a spiffy sports complex that boasts two underground hockey rinks and an ample outdoor pool.
But it became a lightning rod for controversy when word spread that, at times, it would enforce residency requirements for entry.
“They told just told me I wasn’t allowed to go in,” said Sara-Eve Philippe, a Point St-Charles resident who tried to bring her toddler to the pool in late June.
It’s a situation that has sparked a robust debate on the island of Montreal as the sun sets on summertime.
Westmount, a demerged city, is considered one of Canada’s most affluent addresses as a tree-lined, grey-stoned urban enclave surrounded on all sides by Montreal boroughs.
“It is surrounded by poorer areas,” said Paul Yatrou, a Westmount resident who uses the centre’s gym.
“But it’s not new, it’s been like that forever.”
Residents of Westmount say that the residency issue came up as a result of severe overcrowding during long holiday weekends.
“On July 1, Canada Day, there was like an hour-and-a-half wait to get in the pool,” said Jaime Rodriguez, a Westmount resident who takes his kids to the pool.
“Some people didn’t even manage to get in. I think that’s why they made that change [in policy].”
Adding a wrinkle to this scenario are the opening hours of the pools in boroughs adjacent to Westmount.
By late August, many public pools in Montreal close their doors because most of their lifeguards are CEGEP students about to head back to class.
The recreation centre pool stays open until Labour Day and is open on weekends through some of September.
“I think that was a big problem,” said Cheryl Buckley, who lives nearby.
“People who actually live here and pay taxes couldn’t get in.”
Another Westmount resident, Dennis Lazanis, says the city has become a victim of its own success.
It built a facility that was more popular than officials thought it would be and now they have to adjust the rules accordingly.
“I think they’ve been more successful than they’ve ever thought,” he said.
“Sometimes there are just too many people.”
© Shaw Media, 2014