OUTREMONT – Outremont’s contentious plan to ban new religious places of worship on main roads in the borough has hit a snag.
Problems with the original zoning maps are putting the bylaw process back to square one.
“Last night was a bit of a fiasco,” said Mindy Pollak, borough councillor and member of the Hasidic Jew community.
“We’re restarting the process after getting to a point where citizens had already been called upon to express themselves.”
The Hasidic Jewish community makes up close to one-quarter of Outremont’s population.
It’s also the fastest-growing community.
Many are taking offence to the latest proposed bylaw to ban religious places of worship on main streets, namely Bernard and Laurier.
“It’s already banned in the rest of the borough. Those were the only two streets,” said Pollak, who is outraged that Outremont’s mayor is determined to go ahead with the bylaw, despite the latest bump in the road.
WATCH BELOW: In this extended interview we hear more about the slow process
At Monday night’s council meeting, the mayor announced that mistakes with the original zoning maps are forcing them to go back to the drawing board, meaning the maps will have to be redone at the cost of $18,000 and the entire process of consultation will have to start over.
“It creates a lot of confusion and I’m afraid that citizens are going to get discouraged,” said Pollak.
“They’re going to say, ‘well we’ve already spoken out on this file. What more can we say?'”
Members of the community have been calling for a meeting with the mayor to find other solutions.
The mayor insisted the bylaw is intended to help merchants revitalize Outremont’s main commercial arteries by keeping places of worship out.
“If the merchants of Laurier and Bernard want to meet with people of the community, why not?” asked Outremont Mayor Marie Cinq-Mars at Monday night’s meeting.
“The borough has been unwilling to look at different solutions that different boroughs have implemented and unwilling to listen to the citizens and to their needs. I hope that this time around we’re going to do a better job of that.”
The lawyer spearheading the legal fight warned the Hasidic community’s rights need to be respected.
A lawyer’s letter was already sent to Outremont late last year when the bylaw was first tabled.
“Sooner or later, the borough of Outremont will have to face the fact that this particular, very religious community, requires more places of worship,” said Grey.
Pollak is the only borough councillor who voted against the bylaw and she’s determined to help her community preserve their constitutional right to practice their religion.
“I’m not saying that we have to put them on Laurier or Bernard,” she said.
“They have to go somewhere, so where are we going to put them? That’s the question.”