Quebec reports wrongdoings committed by the mayor of Sainte-Julienne

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Quebec reports wrongdoings committed by the mayor of Sainte-Julienne

In the middle of a city council meeting in March, Mayor Richard Desormiers admitted that houses had been built without a permit on the campsite he owns.

Houses were built without a permit on Domaine la Fierté, located in Sainte-Julienne, in Lanaudière.

The elected municipal officials of Sainte-Julienne, in Lanaudière, including Mayor Richard Desormiers and the municipal administration, have committed a wrongdoing, concludes an investigation report from the Investigations and Prosecutions Department in municipal integrity from the Commission municipale du Québec.

In March 2022, Mayor Richard Desormiers confessed in full municipal council that houses were being built without a permit on the grounds of Camping Domaine la Fierté, which he has owned since 1998. The same evening, he also candidly admitted that he authorized the cutting of trees without a permit on this same land.

His confession led to an investigation by the Municipal Integrity Investigations and Prosecutions Department (DEPIM) of the Commission municipale du Québec (CMQ). The results of the investigation show that many, if not all, of the buildings on the Estate were carried out without a building permit and in violation of the Municipality's planning regulations.

The evidence also shows that tree felling work was also carried out without authorization. All these irregularities were carried out in a conservation area within the meaning of the zoning plan and outside the urbanization perimeters.

The investigation notes that the irregularities of Camping Domaine la Fierté were well known to elected municipal officials and the administration since the first works carried out at the turn of the 2000s. Despite everything, for several years, no measure was taken to make respect municipal regulations.

Trees have been razed on this land at Camping Domaine La Fierté.

We can read in the investigation report that it was impossible to demonstrate or explain why everyone tolerated the situation without asking questions or trying to know the extent of the development taking place. All seemed content to collect municipal taxes without having to worry about compliance with regulations, it says.

According to the report, the mayor has thus authorized over time the construction of more than 160 homes on his land, whose assessment roll varies between $5,600 and $255,000. All of these residences are built on Domaine la Fierté, which has not been subdivided.

Furthermore, according to the report, the registration on the assessment roll of several residences n does not comply with the Municipal Taxation Act. Indeed, a parallel procedure has been put in place whereby those in charge of the Estate inform the firm of appraisers directly of the construction of a new building so that the role can be modified.

However, according to the procedure in effect in Sainte-Julienne, the assessment firm should modify the assessment roll upon presentation of proof of the issuance of a building or renovation permit.

The mayor of Sainte-Julienne, Richard Desormiers, is the sole shareholder and director of a company that owns 41 hectares of land, located on the territory of the municipality of Sainte-Julienne .

Camping Domaine la Fierté is located on this site. It is a campground and a resort.

The website states that the place has over 230 trailer sites and another 200 for tents. It is also possible to rent rooms in a motel.

There is a swimming pool, a lake, a bar, a performance hall, a snack bar and volleyball courts and pétanque.

Domaine la Fierté is reserved for men during the summer season. Naturism is permitted on the entire site.

The investigation report points out that the mayor, elected in 2021 and previously a municipal councilor since 2013, should have known that if the municipality refused to issue building permits, it is because the situation of the Estate was derogatory to municipal regulations.

The DEPIM makes several recommendations to the municipality: ensure the application of its urban planning regulations, apply corrective and/or punitive measures as necessary and ensure that entries on the assessment roll comply with the law. on municipal taxation. She calls on the Director General to follow up on the corrective measures put in place by October 1, 2022.

It is also mentioned that this report is published under the Act to facilitate the disclosure of wrongdoings relating to public bodies and does not target the ethical and professional conduct of an elected official, thus referring to the mayor of Sainte- Julienne.

Domaine La Fierté is located on Montée Hamilton, in Sainte-Julienne.

Any contravention of urban planning regulations constitutes an offense making offenders liable to fines of up to $5,000 per offense, indicates Isabelle Rivoal, spokesperson for the Commission municipale du Québec. They can be cumulative and daily when it comes to violations concerning subdivision and zoning regulations, she recalls.

According to Ms. Rivoal, other remedies are also possible. The Superior Court could, upon application by the Attorney General, the municipality or any interested party, order the cessation of a use of the land or of a construction incompatible with a zoning or subdivision by-law and, if there is no Another useful remedy is to order the demolition of the construction or the restoration of the land.

Both the director general and the mayor of Sainte-Julienne had the opportunity to present their versions as part of the investigation. They were also informed of the conclusions and recommendations of the report. Mayor Richard Desormiers did not want to comment on this.

The new general management, in place since March 2021, was informed in the summer of 2021 of the situation . Communications strategist Jean Polloni, whose firm was hired by the general management to manage the crisis, explains that the municipality is aware of certain issues in terms of urban planning and treats them as any file would be treated.

A trailer park occupies part of the estate.

It supports, as the mentions the report, that the general management no longer accepts the status quo and that it has taken steps over the past two years to enforce municipal regulations on Domaine la Fierté.

During the municipal council of April 11, councilor Joël Ricard, who is not part of the mayor's team, had proposed a resolution on compliance with municipal by-laws and environmental standards relating to Domaine la Fierté.

< p class="e-p">This resolution proposed that council mandate the general management of the Municipality to look into the situation at the Estate. The quorum could not be reached, because the mayor and the members of his team had abstained from voting in order to avoid a conflict of interest. The resolution had therefore been transferred to the Council of the Regional County Municipality (MRC) of Montcalm.

This is to complete to establish a status report, the actions that have raised by the municipality and its response plan as part of the Pride Domain file, reports Mr. Polloni. This report will then be submitted to the council of the MRC de Montcalm.

In the meantime, the next meeting of the municipal council of Sainte-Julienne will take place on August 8.

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