When Balnéa spa co-owner Denis Laframboise acquired the land on which the Bromont spa now stands from its previous owner, Balnéa founder Daniel Émond, in 2017, he also inherited a development agreement that touched a nerve with some Bromont residents.
In 2017, Émond had ceded 200 acres of land to the city on the condition he would be able to have as many as 12 houses built on the nearby 41.5-acre plot, but no construction took place. Laframboise bought the land from Émond in 2021 and took steps to activate the agreement – to the consternation of a citizens’ group that wanted to preserve the land and integrate it into the adjacent nature park. Instead of insisting on the application of the previous agreement, Laframboise agreed to work in collaboration with the citizens’ group Protection Mont-Gale; the conservation nonprofit Appalachian Corridor; and the city of Bromont on a unique four-party agreement to preserve most of the property while building a small development.
“During a city council meeting last September, when we submitted minor changes to the placement of the proposed road, citizens showed that they were vigorously interested in protecting the 40 acres on the west side of the mountain and continuing the conservation efforts undertaken by our predecessors and neighbours,” Laframboise, who has not previously spoken publicly about his role in the project, told the BCN. “That’s when we decided to slow the project down to give all parties the chance to come to an agreement.”
The current proposed agreement, according to Laframboise, will allow for the construction of four houses on an eight-acre section of the property. The remaining 33.5 acres, which have an estimated value of $2.5 million, are to be bought back and integrated into the Domaine naturel du lac Gale. Protection Mont-Gale raised $125,000 late last year as a first step toward buying the land; at a meeting on Aug. 1, Bromont city council agreed to contribute $550,000. Protection Mont-Gale must raise an additional $250,000, and Appalachian Corridor intends to raise the remaining amount, mainly through applying for government subsidies. Dec. 7 is the deadline for raising the full amount.
Laframboise has agreed to donate a sector of the property valued at “a minimum of $640,000.” He said he believes the conservation of the land, a stretch of mature forest with remarkable biodiversity, may have potential positive repercussions for the spa.
“The thing that makes us want to go forward with this project is that we value the size and the quality of the ecosystems that surround us, and the peace and quiet,” he said. “That is the keystone of the services that Balnéa Spa offers its guests.”
Laframboise and the city of Bromont are currently in two-party negotiations about certain aspects of the agreement. Neither Laframboise nor Bromont mayor Louis Villeneuve has spoken publicly about what the specific sticking points are. However, Laframboise said he “had good hope” that he and the municipality would be able to reach an agreement.
“We want to coordinate with the city of Bromont our vision for the Domaine naturel du lac Gale, to emphasize the peace and quiet of the area and ensure that the heart of the park, the Balnéa lot, can develop as a destination for low-density recreational tourism,” he said. “There is still a lot of work to do to educate, raise awareness and explain to citizens and elected officials the well-foundedness of our approach.”
Villeneuve was not immediately available for comment.