Pointe-Claire development debate continues after trees cut down in Fairview forest

Residents in Pointe-Claire say they're saddened and dismayed to see trees have been cut down in the Fairview Forest, just two months after the area was placed in a zoning freeze -- a freeze that prevents Cadillac Fairview from moving forward with development plans.

The company owns the 50 acres of land, but residents hoped the freeze would prevent the cutting of any trees.

In an email to CTV News, the company said it is "in compliance with all applicable regulations," but did not explain why the trees have been cut down.

According to the municipality's mayor, it was done to make room for a fence the company plans to build around the perimeter of the forest.

"I think it's part of the ongoing campaign of Cadillac Fairview to alienate themselves from the people of Point-Claire," said Mayor Tim Thomas.

Thomas joined a small crowd of environmentalists Saturday who have been protesting development in the area for 84 weeks.

"The hope is we're coming to the realization that maybe staying alive is more important than cutting trees down, perhaps we should think twice about this," he said.

Cadillac Fairview's plan is to turn the green space and wetlands into a downtown for the West Island, with office spaces, a hotel, and high-rise housing at a time when Montreal is facing a housing shortage.

But Thomas says the company's plan won't address the real issue in Greater Montreal, which he says is a lack of affordable housing.

"You have to give infrastructure, roads, parks, facilities, hospitals, schools for residents, so all that money you bring in, you have to give it back for infrastructure."

The group Save Fairview Forest says it's pushing to protect this area because it's the last wild green space in Point-Claire.

"We don't agree with the argument that a forest like this with such ecological value, the last forest in the area, should be clear cut for housing," says Genevieve Lussier, spokesperson for Save Fairview Forest.

With a mall on one side, highways nearby, and the future REM in the distance, she says this area needs to stay pristine.

"The forest absorbs rainwater, it absorbs snowmelt, and it's a buffer from the pollution of the Trans Canada [highway]," she says.

Mark Abley has been fighting to protect this area for many months. He says the citizens should have more rights to the land than corporations.

"This very forest is the habitat of red-shouldered hawks, of wild turkeys, of snakes, and that shows the value of it in ecological terms," he said.

The group says it will keep protesting outside of the forest, week after week, until it is fully protected from development. 

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