Residents worry Montreal's Nuns' Island can't sustain proposed housing development

Nuns' Island residents packed a public consultation Tuesday evening to learn more about the proposed housing and commercial development. (CBC - image credit)
Nuns' Island residents packed a public consultation Tuesday evening to learn more about the proposed housing and commercial development. (CBC - image credit)

Geneviève Guay says she's not against the development of commercial and residential space around the soon-to-open light-rail network station on Nuns' Island in Montreal.

But she is concerned about the number of people expected to move onto the island, which, she explained during a public consultation meeting Tuesday evening, doesn't have the infrastructure to handle a population boom.

Nuns' Island is in the Verdun borough where the Champlain Bridge connects to the city from the South Shore. The first section of the electric light-rail network, known as the Réseau express métropolitain (REM), is slated to be up and running this spring.

"This small island can't sustain a 30 per cent population growth, and that's what will happen," said Guay, who is part of a local residents' and property owners' association, Association des propriétaires et résidents de L'Île-des-Sœurs.

"They never made any studies about the road infrastructure."

She said people are worried about their safety — and their ability to get on and off the island once it becomes more crowded.

A public consultation was held to discuss a proposed mixed-use project that will require a zoning exemption. Currently the property, steps away from the REM station, is zoned for commercial use.

The proposed project, Cité de l'Île, will include hundreds of condos, seniors' residences, a hotel and commercial space. There will also be bike and pedestrian corridors, and 100 to 150 social housing units.


The company behind the proposed project didn't attend the consultation and didn't respond to a request for comment.

But there were plenty of residents on hand, packing into the room and expressing concerns not only about the increase in traffic but also about the preservation of the remaining green space on the island.

The mayor of the Verdun borough said the project will eliminate what are currently heat islands in the area.

"Right now there's a big open space — parking lots," Marie-Andrée Mauger said. "It will become more green. There will be more trees."

The project will allow easy access to the REM station by foot, and the planned pedestrian crossing will also require a zoning exemption, she noted. She said she understands that residents want a better understanding of such a large-scale project.

The mayor said the council is listening to people's concerns. The borough council will then hold a vote on Feb. 7.

Resident Nicola Pelly was among those at the consultation. She said she is particularly concerned about the environment.

"I came to the island because it was still pretty natural," she said. "Since I've been here, the population has increased dramatically, and I am just worried that we won't have any more of the natural, wild spaces."