5-Star Montreal RV Resort Target for Homes/Condos
Even though he has lived in the same home for 10 years, retired schoolteacher Jacques Bertrand didn't know how big it is until he took out a measuring tape last week and did some calculations.
"Let's see now," he said, starting with the bedroom with the queen bed in it, then working his way up to the bathroom, the living room and adjoining kitchen, and then the area around the two plush leather seats at the front of his 37-foot motorhome.
Final tally for this recreational vehicle that serves as their principal residence: 374 square feet.
"Bigger than a small downtown Paris apartment," observed Bertrand, 71. "But that apartment in Paris will cost you $500,000, and I paid only $200,000 for this."
That's what he paid 10 years ago, when he and his wife, Louise, embraced the RV lifestyle and became summertime residents of one of the most quirky suburban subdivisions in the greater Montreal area, according to the Montreal Gazette.
Mont Laval Park in the Ste. Dorothée sector of Laval has been Montreal's main RV resort since it opened in 1987. But a proposed new bylaw in Laval would allow the new owner to shut it down and put up 300 detached homes and condos on the land.
Bertrand has been elected by local RV residents to engineer popular opposition to the bylaw. They want to see the zoning maintained for recreation-tourism purposes, and they hope to persuade Laval council that Mont Laval, one of only two five-star RV resorts in Quebec, is worth preserving. The other high-end RV nirvana is on Île d'Orleans.
"This is the kind of lifestyle that my wife and I like — and as a Quebecer, I think a place like Mont Laval adds value to the Montreal region," Bertrand said.
Like a majority of other summertime residents there, Jacques and Louise Bertrand are snowbirds who spend slightly more than six months a year in Quebec and slightly less than six months a year in Florida or Mexico.
That way, they get to maintain their Medicare entitlements in Quebec.
The Bertrands, whose three children are grown up and scattered in Montreal, Vancouver and Dubai, spend their winters in an oceanfront RV park outside Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Although their lifestyle might seem expensive and luxurious, Bertrand isn't a rich man. He made a decent but hardly lucrative living as a French and Latin teacher for 40 years in and around Montreal. He and his wife pay only $500 a month rent in Quebec and Mexico for the RV spot. Every year since his retirement, he has worked part time as a car jockey for Budget and Avis in Montreal.
This is the first summer he hasn't been working. His time is now devoted to organizing opposition to the proposed bylaw, which was the subject of a public consultation Aug. 5.
At that meeting, Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt defended developer Sylvain Chartrand's 300-unit project, while Chartrand himself chose not to speak at all.
Chartrand's Maisons Charplex purchased Mont Laval Park last April from a company owned by plastics entrepreneur Heinz Webber. Vaillancourt suggested Webber had been losing money and had asked the city for special tax incentives for Mont Laval.
After opening the RV park in 1987, Webber created a private lake and used the landfill from it to build a little hill. There's also a swimming pool in the complex. There used to be water slides, but Webber got rid of those after the city slapped an amusement tax on him.
The RV park operates seven months a year, from early April through through end of October. Of the 220 RV spots, 120 are rented on seven-month leases, while the other 100 are reserved for tourism.
Although Tourisme Laval president Andrée Courteau told the Courrier Laval last week that the RV park adds "a lot of value" to Laval as a tourism asset, she was careful to say the parapublic agency's role is to defer to the will of Laval council on the issue.
Bertrand, meanwhile, has been circulating a petition in the RV park and surrounding neighbourhood to oppose construction of 300 new homes.
Vaillancourt says he's not sure whether the transient RV-resort residents would have the legal right to vote in a neighborhood referendum. Bertrand says he has asked Quebec's chief electoral officer for a legal opinion.