by Brandon Mayer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Rideau Action Group (RAG) has finally made their appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) in opposition of a planned “Mega Warehouse” in North Gower. Although the appeal, which has been planned for months, has finally been heard, closing remarks and rebuttals have not yet happened, meaning a verdict will likely not be reached until at least January of 2022.
Leigh-Andrea Brunet, Chairperson of RAG, spoke with the Times about some surprising developments that came out of the hearing. “After the hearing, we don’t know what exactly they plan on building,” Leigh-Andrea said.
The lawyer for the opposing side argued that the “proposal” for the new build was, in fact, a “conceptual plan,” with no clear answer as to what will be built. For RAG and many concerned citizens, this is troubling, because it means that zoning changes would occur before it is known what is actually going to be built.
“Originally, the developers came to the City of Ottawa to ask for an official plan amendment and zoning by-law amendment that would allow them to build 700,000 square feet.” Leigh-Andrea said. “That’s kind of where it started.”
However, RAG has since learned that the original intended “end user” of the warehouse space has backed out of the deal, raising serious questions about who will even use the developed space. “The lawyer for the applicant said it’s probably going to be a warehouse, it’s probably going to be a distribution centre, but would absolutely not confirm anything,” Leigh-Andrea said.
The land in question is currently divided into three zones: a light industrial zone, a highway commercial zone, and a recreational zone. RAG is fighting to keep this zoning in place, as the land is within the North Gower village limits. North Gower is growing, and RAG does not want to lose land that will help keep the village growing in the future. “We’re building houses like crazy here,” Leigh-Andrea said. “That property is going to be very valuable to us as we grow as a community.” One of the main goals of RAG is to make sure that North Gower keeps its small-town feel.
When asked if RAG is hopeful about the results of the appeal, Leigh-Andrea answered that they are “extremely hopeful.” She added, “Everything that’s guided around development for our village says this is absolutely ridiculous, and in no way does a development of this size fit into the proper land use.”
While RAG has many supporters, some other North Gower locals took to social media after the announcement of the appeal to voice their disapproval, saying that the village is an ideal place for a mega warehouse, given its proximity to the highway. Others commented on the benefit of local job creation, though Leigh-Andrea argues that there is no shortage of jobs available, and that the costs outweigh the benefits.
RAG has set up a GoFundMe page to support their cause. By December 3, it had raised $27,900 of a $60,000 goal. The page can be found at gofund.me/00a2f92d.