Ottawa

Barrhaven development vote postponed amid questions about report

A city report supporting a 500-home development on a gravel pit in Barrhaven says the provincial ministry in charge of natural resources has confirmed the site has been mined of its sand-and-gravel resources. But the province says that's not true.

Staff pulled development item off next week's planning agenda after CBC inquiries

The parcel on Borrisokane Road is found to the east of the 416. The southern part of Barrhaven can be seen to the right, while the City of Ottawa's Trail Road landfill can be seen on the left, on the other side of the highway. (J.F. Sabourin and Associates Inc.)

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  • The application was deferred to Feb. 13 due to changes requested by the developer, the city says.

A City of Ottawa planning report in support of a 500-home development on a gravel pit in Barrhaven says the province's ministry in charge of natural resources confirmed the site has been mined of its sand and gravel.

Only one problem: the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry says it has done no such thing.

"[The ministry] has not stated that aggregate resources on the licensed site are 'exhausted'," according to an emailed statement from ministry spokeswoman Jolanta Kowalski.

Caivan Brazeau Development Corp. purchased the aggregate pit at 3809 Borrisokane Rd. in late 2018 for more than $17 million, according to land registry records.

A few months later, the developer filed an application to the city to develop a new subdivision on the site — known as the Brazeau Pit — and the rezoning was headed to the planning committee next week for final approval.

But re-purposing lands that contain mineral aggregates — the much-needed materials like sand and gravel that are used in construction — isn't straightforward.

The province protects these sorts of resource for long-term use, and the City of Ottawa's own official plan only allows the new use of a mineral extraction site, "where the aggregate resources of a property have been fully extracted."

And that's what the city's report said had occurred.

According to the staff report on the item: "Mineral resource extraction operations were recently wound down as the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry had confirmed that the aggregate resources on the site have been exhausted."

City staff relied on developer's own report

But that's not true, says the ministry.

As far as the ministry is concerned, the Brazeau Pit is still licensed under provincial law, and significant changes to the site "would be processed as a major amendment," which would be a months-long process that would include the opportunity for the public to comment through the Environmental Registry of Ontario. 

After CBC began asking questions about the report, the city postponed the item late Wednesday. No reason was given.

The rezoning for the Brazeau pit was headed to planning committee next week at city hall, but was postponed late Wednesday afternoon. (CBC)

Earlier in the week CBC asked the city when the ministry had confirmed the depletion of the Brazeau pit's aggregates.

The city responded by pointing to a "mineral impact statement" that was included in the developer's application for the rezoning.

But that "statement" was written by consultant Paterson Group, and paid for by the development company, Caivan.

The report states: "It is understood that the pit has been depleted of the useable aggregate and will be rehabilitated for future development." The report does not quote the ministry or any other sources in making that assertion.

It's alarming that this would land on councillors' plates ... We rely on staff to provide us with the accurate information we need to make decisions ​​​.- Coun. Jeff Leiper, planning committee member

In fact, during the community design plan discussions for expanding Barrhaven to the south, a city staff report dated May 2018 stated that the Brazeau and adjacent Costello pits "continue to supply sand and gravel for customers in the Ottawa area."

While the lands were expected to be developed after all minerals were extracted, the city said in May 2018 the timing for that transition was "currently unknown."

In the summer of 2018, provincial and city staff "discussed options" with the landowner of Brazeau Pit about transitioning the site to a new land use, according to Kowalski of the ministry of natural resources.

But that transition hasn't been completed.

Councillors caught off-guard

Planning committee members were only hearing of the file being pulled from next week's agenda on Wednesday evening.

Some privately expressed concern that a misleading piece of information would be included in a staff report.

"It's alarming that this would land on councillors' plates," said Coun. Jeff Leiper, who sits on the committee.

"We rely on staff to provide us with the accurate information we need to make decisions … To be fair, I think it's important that staff be given the opportunity to explain the discrepancy."

The city has told CBC it will provide more information on the issue on Thursday.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story stated that the property was purchased by local developer Caivan Communities. In fact, records indicate the buyer is Caivan Brazeau Development Corp.
    Jan 17, 2020 12:34 PM ET