“We have to make the lake our top priority” Brome Lake mayor thinks green

By Ruby Irene Pratka Local Journalism Initiative

Richard Burcombe has been acclaimed for a third term as mayor of the Town of Brome Lake. He says he decided to run again to “keep the continuity going” and see long-term projects like the development of a new public green space at the centre of town and the rebuilding of the Blackwood Dam to their conclusion.

“The contracts [for the rebuilding of the dam] have been given out, that will go to next year, and then we will develop the green space,” he says. “Of course, in light of climate change, we also have to make the lake our top priority.”

Burcombe says his administration’s plans for the lake include taking over the boat-washing program started by Renaissance Lac Brome and encouraging people who own lakeside property to plant grass to prevent erosion and not to mow close to the shoreline.

He is also looking forward to overseeing the development of the public green space. “We’re very lucky to be able to have a space like that right downtown,” he says. “There has been some talk of putting the farmers’ market down there…and we may plant some trees to set up a space where people can gather and chat. We already have a town park, out toward the duck farm, but this is right downtown and it’s ideally located. We have to make sure we get it right, because it will be there for years.”

Like surrounding municipalities, the Town of Brome Lake is also experiencing a hot housing market as long-term telecommuters increasingly decide to settle outside of major cities.

“Our housing market has skyrocketed over the past few years,” says Burcombe. “Our welcome tax revenue for the past year will be about $3 million, and we usually budget for between $800,000 and $1 million, so that gives you an idea. Our population is usually about 33 per cent seniors, but now it’s changing; there are a lot of young families coming in.” Burcombe says construction projects representing “over 100 new doors” are underway or about to be underway in the municipality.

“If we were to accept all of the projects submitted to us by promoters, we would have had 550 doors,” the mayor said. “You have to put the brakes on at one point because we are a small staff and these agreements [with promoters] are a lot of work. You have to control development and make sure it’s thought out, because everyone wants everything tomorrow.” Laying out a new five-year urban development plan, to replace the one that expired in 2020, is another priority for the Burcombe administration.

Burcombe says his biggest challenge is finding permanent staff as the province readjusts to a post-pandemic labour landscape. “Municipalities are looking for city managers, inspectors and clerks… these are full-time jobs, but the [applicants] aren’t there,” he says. “I’ve never seen this before.”

Bill 96

Burcombe believes Bill 96, the sweeping reform to language laws proposed by the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government and first tabled in May, won’t have a major impact on day-to-day life in Brome Lake. The law stipulates that officially bilingual municipalities where anglophones make up less than 50 per cent of the population, like Brome Lake, will have to pass a resolution to retain their bilingual status.

“We’ll pass a resolution to retain our bilingual status according to the law,” Burcombe says. “The French and English communities have always gotten along here, and they will continue to do so. I’m not worried about Brome Lake, but I’m concerned about issues such as the restrictions on English-language CEGEPS. More and more English people will move away, and that’s worrisome.”

Brome Lake by the numbers:

Population: 5,495 (2016) Anglophones as a percentage of population: 49.3 per cent Bilingual status: Yes

Land area: 207.29 km3

Elections 2021:

Mayor: Richard Burcombe (incumbent, acclaimed)

Councillor, District 1 (Bondville-Fulford): Lucy Gagnon (incumbent, acclaimed)

Councillor, District 2 (West Brome-Iron Hill):

Fred Enns

Shelley Judge

Ronald Myles (incumbent)

Councillor, District 3 (East Hill): Pierre Laplante (incumbent, acclaimed)

Councillor, District 4 (Knowlton-Victoria): Lee Patterson (incumbent, acclaimed)

Councillor, District 5 (Knowlton-Lakeside): Louise Morin (incumbent, acclaimed)

Councillor, District 6 (Foster): Patrick Ouvrard

David Taveroff (incumbent)

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