Masonic temple in limbo
St. Lambert under pressure to increase tax revenue
July 14, 2009
By DAVID JOHNSTON, The Gazette
The town bought the lodge in 1998.
It was originally built as an Anglican mission in 1886. The Freemasons bought it in 1928. The property is situated at the corner of Elm and Lodge Sts., immediately adjacent to the existing St. Barnabas Anglican Church.
Although the Freemasons sold it in 1998, it stopped using the property in the early 1990s, when it applied to the town for a demolition permit. That application was refused. The town strengthened its support for the building in 1998 by buying it and giving it municipal historical recognition. But more than a decade later, St. Lambert town council has had a change of heart.
Last month, council tabled a notice of motion to revoke the heritage status, in order to free up the property, situated around the corner from Victoria St., which is main street in St. Lambert, for sale and redevelopment. An urban-planning advisory committee held a public meeting on the notice of motion last week. The committee is to meet next week to review public feedback and make a recommendation to council on whether or not it should proceed with its motion of revocation. A council vote is scheduled for Aug. 12.
Philippe Brunet, the town councillor heading up the committee, said yesterday that St. Lambert is still moving toward revocation. But he said the city is negotiating quietly with a local group that has asked for time to raise funds in order to support a proposal to redevelop the neo-Tutor property as a community centre. The group is being led by a former town councillor, Marc-André Croteau, and resident Edith Lemieux.
"My only concern is that this group first met with the city last September, and since then, they still haven't applied to Revenue Canada for recognition of their charitable tax status," Brunet said.
In an open letter in the June-July edition of town hall's official Bulletin Saint-Lambert, Mayor Sean Finn says that requests for proposals to redevelop the old Masonic property into something that would generate tax revenues for town hall "did not yield the results sought." So it's time to clear the regulatory way for redevelopment, he says.
The Finn administration has been under strong pressure to increase revenues as a result of the forced mergers of 2002 and the subsequent demerger sequel in 2004.
Becaue of the municipal reorganization, local taxes have soared to support regional administration and services in the new Longueuil political agglomeration.
In May, a local referendum on a proposal to loosen local zoning rules in order to favour new tax-generating development won by a 53-47 per cent margin.
Even so, local resident and historical researcher Janet Sader said the early Anglican mission taken over the Freemasons in 1928 is worth saving. The distinctive neo-Tudor structure resembles an Outremont property that now houses the Outremont borough council chamber, she said.