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Estate of the Pères de Sainte-Croix

Estate of the Pères de Sainte-Croix (Fathers of the Holy Cross) Notre-Dame-du-Bel-Air – Lac Simon, Regional Municipality of Papineau, QC—CULTURAL LANDSCAPE ON TENTERHOOKS

Property owner circumvents heritage bylaw by making sale of lots contingent upon land severance.

Why it matters

Developed as a summer spiritual retreat and education centre by the Canadian Congregation of the Holy Cross in 1933, this 48-acre property on the shores of Lac Simon is an extraordinary cultural landscape. It features a rustic chapel, a prow-shaped Streamline-Moderne-style gallery reminiscent of steamships that once plied local waterways, outdoor Stations of the Cross along a woodland footpath, and an unmarked private cemetery dating to the late 19th century—all surrounded by a mature forest and pristine wetlands. Having attended regular religious services and celebrated marriages and baptisms there for several generations, many area residents and cottagers have a longstanding attachment to the site.

In January 2013, the estate was designated as a protected heritage site by the municipality under the province’s Cultural Heritage Act for its architectural, historic, natural and potential archeological values.

Why it’s endangered

In March 2014 the estate was sold to a numbered company in Quebec for $2.5 million. Two months later, three 7,500 sq m lots were listed for sale at $345,000 each, contingent on their severance, despite the fact that no approval had been given for the estate to be divided up and developed.

Although the subdivision conforms to the municipality’s planning guidelines in terms of lot size, it runs contrary to the municipal bylaw protecting the estate, which clearly states that no one can divide, subdivide, or break up land of the designated heritage property; demolish all or part of a building situated there; or erect any new construction without municipal council approval.

Where things stand

In June 2014, the Fédération Histoire Québec (FHQ) wrote to the Mayor of Lac Simon asking that the municipal council adhere to the bylaw protecting the estate as stipulated under the Cultural Heritage Act and remind the owner that proceeding with subdivision of the estate is prohibited unless approved by council. According to Mayor Maillé, the council has no need to address the issue until an actual offer to purchase is made.

A second letter from FHQ was sent to the Outaouais regional office of the Department of Culture and Communication requesting provincial intervention in order to protect the future integrity of this pristine heritage site. 

A detailed proposal identifying the owner’s intentions for the site is anticipated.   

UPDATE: In November 2015, it was reported that the Estate of the Pères de Sainte-Croix was on the market again with an asking price of $4.8 million. Then, in March 2016, new reports emerged that the Estate, along with another property owned by the same numbered company, would be auctioned off due to unpaid taxes.

In May 2016, it was announced that a new development plan for the site, called “Le Manitou” would be presented to the municipal council on May 6, followed by a public information session. The developer’s lawyer confirmed that outstanding taxes for the property had been paid.