Further opposition to distribution centre at North Gower

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by Anna Riley,
Rideau Action Group

On January 13, 2019 the Rideau Action Group filed two interconnected appeals with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). The appeals are in objection to the December 11, 2019 Ottawa City Council approval of an Official Plan Amendment (OPA) and zoning by-law amendment (ZBA) permitting a Montreal-based developer to build a 700,000 square foot distribution centre (similar to the Amazon facility on Boundary Rd) within the village limits of North Gower. The LPAT, part of Tribunals Ontario, is an adjudicative tribunal that hears cases in relation to a range of municipal planning, financial and land matters. It has replaced the Ontario Municipal Board.

Appeals filed with LPAT must be submitted within 20 calendar days of the official notification of the bylaw and rezoning approval. The City of Ottawa gave notification of registration on December 24, Christmas Eve. Notification of other Council decisions from the same meeting were posted earlier in the month.

There is clear community opposition to the proposal and a feeling of anger and distrust of City politicians regarding both the lack of meaningful community consultation and a bias towards the developer. At a community meeting on October 17, 2019, over 400 people attended and not one speaker was in favour. On December 5, over 30 residents presented focussed objections of the OPA and ZBA to the Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee. A petition with over 3,000 signatures was introduced to the Ontario Legislature on December 11, 2019 by Member of Provincial Parliament Goldie Ghamari, which was then filed with the Minister of Transportation, Caroline Mulroney, and over 2,000 people registered their opposition on Change.Org. Despite this, City Council passed the bylaw and rezoning approval without discussion on December 11, 2019.

Neither the OPA nor ZBA are congruent with the Provincial Policy Statement, the Official Plan of the City of Ottawa or the North Gower Secondary Plan. The land in question was rezoned two decades ago to facilitate the development of a small business park that would provide services to the community and take advantage of the benefits of the then new 416/Roger Stevens interchange. There is continuing support in the community for the development of a small business park that supports the agricultural community. The City’s approval of a distribution centre will use all of the potentially commercial-use land at the interchange for just one business.

In Broccolini’s Planning Rationale, it was stated that up to 3,500 people could be employed during peak season at the proposed distribution centre. Because of the associated commuter traffic and anticipated large semi-double truck traffic, residents are extremely concerned about safety on Roger Stevens Drive, a two lane road that is used by ~30 school buses a day, and many slow moving agricultural vehicles. To date, there has been no meaningful consideration of the harm to North Gower, (described in the City’s own documents as a rural jewel), that will come from the traffic, let alone the other implications of building such a facility in the unserviced community.

The Rideau Action Group has retained a lawyer and a land planner and is now focussing efforts on fundraising. They hope to hire further experts depending on the amount of money raised. Rideau Action Group strongly feels that had the City of Ottawa been following procedure, Broccolini should have been responsible for providing up-to-date and long-term impact studies prior to the zoning and by-law changes.

‘It is regrettable that a group of middle income rural residents are forced to defend the Village’s rural character and community safety against the team-work of the City of Ottawa and a large construction company, both with multi-million dollar budgets”, states Teddie Laframboise, Chairperson of the Rideau Action Group.

Rideau Action Group is a not-for-profit group in the process of incorporation for the purpose of lodging these appeals with LPAT. It consists of members of the communities of North Gower and Kars.

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