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Why I voted for a first reading of proposed new synagogue and community centre on Mackle Road and where we go from here

Over the last few weeks many people have asked me why I voted in favor of the first reading of the rezoning of land on Mackle Road to house a new synagogue and community centre under the auspices of the Fondation Sepharade Kollel Avrechim.



What the proposed building would look like.

First off, please pay attention to the words “first reading.”  For many years the Fondation Sepharade Kollel Avrechim has been operating out of a duplex on Parkhaven Avenue. I equate their beginnings to Beth Chabad CSL, which operated from the old Eaton’s at the Cavendish Mall and in the CSL Shopping Centre until they constructed a beautiful facility on Kildare Road and Marc Chagall. The Fondation Sepharade Kollel Avrechim deserves something better than a duplex.

Initially they bought land on Mackle Road right next to the CLSC René Cassin for what was to be a very modest-sized building. Neighbours opposed the project, signed a register and council stopped any potential development. We did identify land across from Maimonides Hospital, which was not near any homes and honestly we expected them to come back to us with the same sized structure. Instead, what materialized was something more than triple the size.

When I spoke to their leaders just a few years ago I asked them if they would give up their Parkhaven duplex once the new building opened and the response was affirmative. Now we learn that they intend to keep it. Parkhaven is not my district so that really is for the local councillor to work on.

Why did I vote in favor of the first reading? I felt it was important for this project to go to public consultation and due to the pandemic and the coverage of this dossier in The Suburban I knew we would have a strong presence online. Some 200 people ended up tuning in and voicing their comments. The response continued on local Facebook pages.

Had we voted this project down, then there would have been no opportunity to hear what the public had to say. I truly hope that the commentary we heard at the public consultation resonated with the congregation. Please make note. I support them. They do excellent work in the community and we are lucky to have them in our midst. To their credit they have approached some local synagogues whom many believe have room in their buildings to cohabitate, but they had no luck. Can the city play a role in mediating? That would certainly be a lot simpler than constructing a building from scratch.

City Council will convene for our next vote on April 12. In my opinion the Fondation Sepharade Kollel Avrechim should adhere to many of the valid concerns raised at the consultation regarding parking and drop off.  Their proposal needs to be revised to take these points into consideration.

I must add that I am troubled by the combative nature of some of our residents who have tried to make this an anti-synagogue issue. Côte Saint-Luc has one of the largest Jewish communities per capita in the world next to Israel and New York. We must all learn to live together as friends and partners.

I am glad we got such a strong response. The consultation, I believe, can create a “win win” situation for everyone involved. Indeed it is clear that the proposal presently before us by Fondation Sepharade Kollel Avrechim is not feasible nor safe. The ball is in their court to come back to us, either before April 12 or if the vote does not pass. But to all citizen of Côte Saint-Luc, if all of the factors due line up in a revised plan then we all need to keep an open mind.

On the eve of Passover, let us all be one strong community. Melodie Cohn, who was my opponent in the last election and has since become a friend and an important voice in District 2, has created a hashtag of #CSLStrong and she adds how we should all celebrate the fact we have so many rich cultures in our community,


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CSL Citizen

Hi Mr. Cohen, I had the opportunity to watch the broadcast the other night. Can you please advise if the development applicants where asked by the CSL municipality to provide a detailed urbanism study to support this development application, which would normally be done by a reputable urbanism firm recognized by the municipality? Such a study would take into account, density, traffic, safety, environment, fit, etc., which is what seemed to be the biggest concern by most of those commenting during the broadcast. If the Urbanism report was done can you please publicize it as it may answer a lot of questions professionally.

Ronnie Roter

Thank you Mike for shedding light on your reasons to vote yes in the first reading. Hopefully the process to move forward will be retarded and some back peddling can take place to allow a professional feasibility study to take place and unify the multiple concerns our surrounding community has. I am a very concerned citizen and wish I had paid more attention over the years to this possible endeavour but I’m here now and will watch and participate diligently. Another major concern of mine is the construction of residential buildings around this project that will house many young adult men to study here. This will compound the original project with congestion and traffic concerns. Are the ultimate plans to create a ‘seminary’ in the middle of Côte St Luc? So much to talk about. We need more open forum discussions before taking this to any kind of a vote. Particularly since many of us who live almost on top of this zone question are NOT allowed to vote. This is not about religion or activity for me. It’s about fairness to my ability to have a right to participate in a decision that impacts my community and in particular my street. I am not alone. We all need a voice.

Lionel Albert

What would happen to the MAIN CSL Dog Park. Would a larger better dog facility be created near the WAGAR football field?
There are many people who use the dog park on a daily basis

Yosef D. Robinson

"Côte Saint-Luc has the largest Jewish community per capita in the world next to Israel and New York."

How about next-door Hampstead? How about Beachwood, a mainly Jewish suburb of Cleveland, Ohio? I think, also, that Aventura and surrounding areas just north of Miami might - at least almost - fit the bill.

As for the project at hand, while I favour such a project in principle, I have deep reservations about it, especially as I've worked at Maimonides in the past and I've often had to use the area in question for my parking (as both the big parking lot and nearby Caldwell tend to fill up all the way).


Thank you Mike for your blog explaining your position on the proposed synagogue and community centre for Mackle. Having lived on Einstein Ave. for the past 31 years, I have seen our community change over the years and not always for the better. For example a synagogue in a home around the corner from where I live has created parking problems by people not necessarily from our area. Right now there are 2 synagogues within 1/2 km from each other . The proposed project would make three. I can imagine the parking and traffic problems that would be created especially during weddings for residents in the area. For many of the current or proposed projects/bylaws, the city in the past has shown and continues to show little or no concern for the neighborhoods that may be affected. Actions by city council seem to be motivated more by politics than for what is good for the community as a whole.

Caroline Burman

I appreciate your reasons for voting for the project. It is important to have community consultation. However I do not understand how the council can consider allowing any new building, synagogue or otherwise, in this day and age, to be constructed without ensuring adequate parking. Especially so in this case as parking is already very difficult on Mackle around Maimonides and the civic centre.Easy access to Maimonides Geriatric Centre must be a major priority for visitors to be able to see their loved ones without parking impediment.

Vicki Zack

I am solidly opposed to the proposal for the 5 storey building (see note below), submitted by Fondation Sepharade Kollel. One is due to the density of people and buildings in our area. Two is due to the fact that there are an increasing number of buildings in our area that are high. We live at 5822 Einstein Avenue, a street that now has a brand new multi-level senior living building behind us, and many new apartment buildings in the area.

Parking is already a challenge for many, including us. We have lived on Einstein Avenue for 41 years. For many years cars have been parked along our street at our end from 8:00 to 15:00, for the most part staff from Maimonides, so any repair people or delivery trucks have had no parking spots. Parking for visitors to Maimonides is very difficult. One person wrote recently that "easy access to the geratric center must be a major priority" in order for people to see their loved ones. In all but the COVID years, there are events at Le Parc Trudeau, at the skating arena, and celebrations and services at the synagogue close by-- all of which we cheer. Another building, whether it had been in the lot near the CLSC or in the location opposite Maimonides which is now being discussed, involves too many people coming and going at all times of the day, parking or dropping people off. Mr. Mike Cohen, in a recent address, entitled "Why I voted for a first reading of the proposed new synagogue . . ." noted that the CSL municipal committee " [identified] land across from Maimonides Hospital, which was not near any homes." However, our home, and the homes nearby, would be deeply affected. Mine is not an anti-synagogue stance. It is a plea to see if a lot can be found in a less congested area of CSL, or an overture can be made to another synagogue like Beth Zion which might be open to being purchased. However, having a 5-story building in a residential area is not a proposal that I would support.

I echo the request made by the person who wrote to inquire if the CSL municipality had asked for a detailed urbanism study to be provided by the applicants for the development. "Such a study would take into account density, traffic, safety, environment, fit, etc." If such a study has been done, the report should be made available. If it was never requested, a study should be requested.

Note 1: The following is a request for clarification of the height of the proposed building. The large notice posted at the site states that the building is to be 5 stories high. There are however questions regarding the number of stories. One friend said as follows: From my information it will be 5 full stories and then at the top there will be 2 floors which will be recessed. Therefore it will be 7 floors high in total. If it has a useable basement as well, it will then have 8 useable floors which could be utilized by many kids and adults. Is my friend correct about the number of floors? We need a clear rendering of the proposed building so that everyone can count the floors and be told what the size and capacity of the building actually are.

Vicki Zack

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