Updates from December, 2019 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Kate 22:30 on 2019-12-29 Permalink | Reply  

    CTV has a brief piece about retail vacancies more or less as a frame around a reminder that hearings will be held into the problem next month, and there’s a survey about it on the city website (link in story).

    • Dominic 05:52 on 2019-12-30 Permalink

      Really interesting survey, hopefully some of the tick-boxes that are available as answers are things the city are legitimately going to look into.

    • Kate 09:40 on 2019-12-30 Permalink

      Yes, but I found one item troubling. I’m not going to walk back through it to quote precisely, but one question had a response along the lines of “improve the street – better benches and trash bins, remove litter and homeless people.”

      Our streets are not dirty, that’s not the problem. The questionnaire is dancing around the fact that one company has bought up a lot of the commercial frontage on several of our neighbourhood main streets and hiked the rents out of reach of independent businesses, but is fat enough to sit back and allow storefronts to sit empty, even if this damages the vibe of the street and the viability of adjoining businesses. In fact, that could even be a business strategy: drag the street down so you can buy up more of it. It’s predatory.

    • Daniel 11:12 on 2019-12-30 Permalink

      I took the survey. One of the answer possibilities regarding what I’m looking for in a store/shopping area — beyond the dubious “fewer homeless people” that you mention, Kate — was whether I prioritized some sort of in-store virtual reality experience.

      Uh, no. It’s safe to say I don’t care about that. There were some good answer possibilities and I’m glad they’re making it easy to register an opinion but, as always, the results are only going to be as good as the questions that are posed and I’m a little wary of some of these. (That said, some gave me hope. More temporary exhibits or pop-up/pilot stores, for instance.)

    • Kate 11:27 on 2019-12-30 Permalink

      Daniel, I agree with you. Some of the answers seemed odd, but the possibility of pop-ups, events and exhibits is a good one.

    • Spi 11:47 on 2019-12-30 Permalink

      I couldn’t disagree more with your statement that our streets not being dirty. At times they are absolutely filthy, some people and business don’t even put in the minimum amount of effort in disposing of their trash/recycling. Cardboard (mostly amazon) boxes that are just left all over the place until they are trampled or driven over until they start decomposing into a disgusting brown mulch.

      More than once this week I’ve noticed what looks like soil from potted plants/indoor planters just dumped at the base of a tree outside, just like everything else in this city just dump it on the sidewalk.

    • david100 12:12 on 2019-12-30 Permalink

      Three things they should do:

      1) default to a conditional use occupancy permit on chain shops (those with more than, say, 7 outlets) in most neighborhoods, with a special derogation requirement for any such proposed shop wherein the applicant must show “extraordinary need” for the chain’s services/products – this will hammer landlords who raise rents/evict with a plain to move a chain in which, in turn, would lower the value of street level commercial properties;

      2) chain shop restrictions should bring the assessed value of commercial property down, which will bring property taxes down, which is good for lessors, but also could mean the spaces sit empty longer if landlords bide their time, so the city should also enact a steep vacant storefront charge to encourage landlords to use their space – call it a nuisance fee, and structure it so that, to the maximum extent possible, it cannot be written off as a business loss (a lien on the property, maybe?); and

      3) the city should massively slash its bureaucracy around getting a small business up and running – inspections should be outsourced with city audits so that businesses can started fast and correct issues identified by inspectors rather that suspend operations waiting on inspectors, fees should be cut, and there should be a council subcommittee tasked with finding ways to cut the costs of doing business in Montreal. It used to be a snap in Montreal – cheap rents, low inspection – and it made for a hotbed of entrepreneurialism and eclecticism. As Montreal has increasingly adopted the Canadian style of governance, its storefront offerings have increasingly come to resemble those of a Canadian city – with chain stores making up an increasing share of commerce, empty storefronts increasing on escalating rents, and worse.

      It’s not too late!

    • Douglas 17:41 on 2019-12-30 Permalink

      The commercial taxes for retail properties are way too high. But the city makes so much money from these retail taxes that there is no incentive to reduce it.

      Commercial taxes can account for up to 1/3 of the actual rent.

      Commercial tax rates are also 4x the residential tax rates.

      The city of Montreal is like an overweight fat pig when it comes to taxes. It wants taxes, and more taxes, and ever more taxes. It also wants vacancies to reduce….

    • david100 19:29 on 2019-12-30 Permalink

      This is true, but there’s no obvious solution, aside from cutting services.

      Canadian cities do not have the taxing powers that Americans have – they’re not a level of government, they’re semi-autonomous administrative departments of the province.

      Anyway, dropping the multiplier on commercial tax wouldn’t do much to deflate the cost of commercial rents – even if some became more viable for owners to lease at lower costs, most would pocket that difference. Rentierism, like we have in the residential sections of Montreal where building is prohibited by law.

      There could be a rebalancing though – empty space fines could be slotted into the general fund and commercial property taxes on non-offending properties could be reduced by the corresponding amount.

    • Douglas 19:41 on 2019-12-30 Permalink

      Owner wouldn’t pocket the difference in the majority of cases.

      The rent is fixed, with commercial tenant responsible for the commercial tax bill. Meaning they pay the portion of the bill directly, whether it goes up or down.

      The city of Montreal has a massive surplus, plus they love throwing money at pet projects that make people feel good. The poor fat pig Montreal can’t find ways to cut expenses to reduce taxes? Well too bad, let these vacancies pile up. Who cares.

  • Kate 18:14 on 2019-12-29 Permalink | Reply  

    Writer Taras Grescoe tweets a video from his Outremont street, where a community is welcoming a new Torah.

    • jeather 19:59 on 2019-12-29 Permalink

      Since I don’t know if people know, a Torah scroll costs 30,000+, it’s all written by hand and takes about a year, using special parchment and ink and a feather quill. If errors are made (including smudges or cracks in the ink), they can sometimes be corrected but sometimes require burying that page of parchment and redoing it. Commissioning a new Torah is a big deal and getting it is very celebratory.

    • Kate 22:24 on 2019-12-29 Permalink

      I knew a little about the scribing – I know you have to get a scribe to make a mezuzah scroll also – but not the price for a new Torah. It must be considered a mitzvah to donate for it.

  • Kate 15:00 on 2019-12-29 Permalink | Reply  

    The Centre d’histoire piece this weekend tells us about Hôtel Péloquin in Ahuntsic, where winter sportsmen used to congregate to hold snowshoe and sled races.

    The Gazette has a few more seasonal things, including a Boxing Day sale at Sam the Record Man in 1983.

    Radio-Canada looked back to World War II, soldiers who were able to come home for the holidays and some who were not.

    • Kate 14:15 on 2019-12-29 Permalink | Reply  

      Regular reader Faiz Imam has made a video of crossing the new bridge by bike.

      • Faiz imam 15:45 on 2019-12-29 Permalink

        I didn’t go all the way across so I only have an idea of the Brossard side, but I really was shocked how many people were there.

        I guess its a mix of being a nicer day, a Saturday on a Christmas weekend, and still only a few days since the path opened up.

        But still, its not *that* hard to get to and quite a wonderful view if you can get over the road noise.

        There is a nearby park with a parking lot (ironically called “parc des Velos”) that i’m guessing will prove very popular for people to drive up and walk the bridge.

        I showed my elderly mother the video and she was very hyped to walk it. even on a colder day.

        And down the line, I can see users from all over the region getting to the Ils des Soeur train station just to walk the bridge.

        Gonna be packed for summer fireworks I think.

      • EmilyG 19:03 on 2019-12-29 Permalink

        Nice video!
        Is it a shared bike/pedestrian path?

      • Kate 19:31 on 2019-12-29 Permalink

        That’s what the reports say, Emily.

      • Robert H 13:58 on 2019-12-30 Permalink

        Merci Faiz, c’était vraiment un cadeau. Cela me donne envie de sortir mon vélo pour une petite balade. La ville se présente si bien lorsque vous vous en approchez de l’autre côté de la rivière.

      • nau 21:00 on 2019-12-30 Permalink

        I rode it a couple days ago. It’s a pretty nice addition to the active transportation network, even taking into consideration the constant traffic next to it. It is a path for both cyclists and pedestrians, but as you can see in Faiz’s video, it would be a stretch to say the pedestrians are currently giving much thought to sharing it with the few cyclists. From Île des Soeurs, the path climbs steadly but is less steep than coming from Brossard. Only the viewpoint closest to Brossard has the plexiglass, the others have only those vertical bars. The view is pretty sweet not just towards downtown but also downriver to Pont Jacques-Cartier as well as southwards to Mont Bruno, Mont St-Hilaire and Rougemont. The closer you get to Île des Soeurs and its residential towers, the more the view of Westmount is blocked. One unfortunate aspect is that in various places where they have Slow signs with rumble strips made of a white material, these strips are already breaking down.

    • Kate 12:01 on 2019-12-29 Permalink | Reply  

      Vets have seen a surge in new patients with the microchipping law that comes into force with the new year. As I posted recently, my cat was among the wave.

      I’ve been pondering this chipping law and I have questions I wish journalists would ask, but so far I haven’t seen them asked or answered.

      My first concern is that the collected data is in the hands of some private company presumably chosen by the city. That means the personal data of thousands of pet owners is at the mercy of an outfit who could do anything with it, or could leave it open or have it hacked. In addition, the database linking the chip with pet owners’ contact information depends on the continuity of that company. Should it go under, what then? (The company also sells pet insurance. It’s not disinterested in the acquisition of pet owner data.)

      Another question I have is about the city pound. It’s been nearly ten years since the shortcomings of Berger Blanc were unmasked by Radio-Canada, yet some boroughs still contract with them. I don’t know whether it’s still the case that Berger Blanc doesn’t have a chip reader, and makes few efforts to identify or inform owners when an animal ends up there, preferring to put animals down to save money, but I have heard things like this on and off in the ten years since the Radio‑Canada report.

      In other words: we’re obliged to chip our pets, but is there any guarantee that this business selected by the city, or at least by some of its boroughs, will even trouble to check for a chip in animals brought in, and act on the information? Since the city is charging us for permits and making us pay for chipping, they need to make clear what services they’re guaranteeing from their contractors.

      And that leads to the promised city pound project. Like all modern projects it’s bound to end up costing a lot more than initially estimated, but it was conceived in response to a need. The Coderre administration promised the project after general outrage over the Berger Blanc revelations, but it has never materialized. The latest news I have on it is from a year ago when it was said to be delayed.

      • Jonathan 08:34 on 2019-12-31 Permalink

        I had my cat chipped in Vietnam as a requisite for him being brought to Canada. But all they did was insert the chip and then give me the chip identification number. There was no registering or entering of data anywhere. If they scanned him that number would come up. But no information on him. When I registered him with the city I only had to enter his chip number into the system.

        I don’t know enough about how vets do it here, but I just assumed it was similar.

        The data rests with the city of Montreal, and to me the threat of a data breach is no different than with any other data the city has on me (such as municipal taxes, etc, or for some people who have cars then the make and licence plate numbers, etc)

    • Kate 11:33 on 2019-12-29 Permalink | Reply  

      QMI lists 35 local notables who died over the last decade.

      • Kate 11:18 on 2019-12-29 Permalink | Reply  

        Some calèche drivers are talking about defying the ban that comes in with the new year. I doubt this will happen or continue for long, because it’s not something that can be done on the sly.

        CTV asks whether Old Montreal will lose some of its magic with the loss of the calèches.

        • Kate 11:15 on 2019-12-29 Permalink | Reply  

          A snowstorm is expected over southern Quebec from Monday evening, 20 cm mentioned here as likely.

          • Kate 10:54 on 2019-12-29 Permalink | Reply  

            The refuelling people at Trudeau are planning to strike on New Year’s eve, after rejecting a proposed contract settlement.

            Those links are from French and English CBC, from CP, but I’m struck by one divergence in the presentation. On the English side, the lede reads “…threatening to disrupt the busy holiday travel season.” On the French side, this handy guide to the reader’s ideal response to the union action is nowhere to be seen. (The same wording is on CTV, so this is on Canadian Press, not the Ceeb.)

            Compose new post
            Next post/Next comment
            Previous post/Previous comment
            Show/Hide comments
            Go to top
            Go to login
            Show/Hide help
            shift + esc