Ottawa

North Gower warehouse OK'd despite residents' concerns

More than 30 North Gower residents went to a city committee armed with presentations and researched arguments, but failed to convince councillors to vote down plans for a massive warehouse in their rural community.

Some changes added, including 100-metre buffer zone

More than 30 residents, mostly from North Gower, gave detailed presentations to oppose a warehouse zoning at Ottawa's agriculture and rural affairs committee on Dec. 5, 2019. (Kate Porter/CBC)

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  • City council approved the rezoning on Dec. 11. Coun. Carol Anne Meehan dissented.

North Gower residents failed to convince a City of Ottawa committee Thursday to vote down plans for a massive warehouse in their rural community.

More than 30 people appeared at the rural and agricultural affairs commitee, armed with researched arguments and slide presentations opposing the rezoning application by Broccolini for a field at Roger Stevens Drive and Highway 416.

Councillors Scott Moffatt, Eli-El-Chantiry Glen Gower and George Darouze ended up voting in favour of the rezoning, while Carol Anne Meehan dissented.

Concerns over traffic, noise and flooding would be dealt with at a future planning stage, councillors promised. The approval of a site's layout is sometimes left to city staff to approve, but Moffatt told reporters Broccolini's would likely go through a public process and city council.

Moffatt did get colleagues to agree to some changes Thursday, however, like widening the buffer zone with neighbouring homes to 100 metres and limiting the amount of space future buildings can take up on the property.

"It's tough. I get that the community doesn't believe they can trust the process ... because they feel they didn't get anything here," said Moffatt.

"I wish they could see that we did make changes to this plan to make it less impactful."

Residents did their homework 

One by one, residents took the microphone at Ben Franklin Place and presented slideshows to make their case that city staff's support for the rezoning was flawed.

They cited studies to argue a warehouse would take jobs from the local farming community and do nothing to diversify the rural economy. They questioned if huge e-commerce warehouses would stand the test of time as an industry.

They also argued flattening the site would make the area more prone to flooding, and said the warehouse's well and septic system could harm the water quality.

Broccolini has submitted an application on behalf of property owner MCU Holdings Ltd. to rezone the field at 1966 Roger Stevens Drive. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Jo Sullivan, who has lived in North Gower for 45 years, asked if Darouze would want a seven-storey warehouse beside Metcalfe's fairgrounds, or if El-Chatiry would want one in Carp.

She also singled out Moffatt, who chairs the environment committee, noting a warehouse with hundreds of employees driving to work flies in the face of Ottawa's climate emergency declaration.

"This warehouse will create air pollution from traffic, noise pollution 24/7, light pollution and water pollution," she said.

Fellow resident Leigh-Andrea Brunet likened Broccolini's proposal to fancy marketing with unknown contents. 

"What we have here is an emperor's new clothes situation," she said, hoping the research residents shared with councillors had "poked holes" in the zoning proposal.

Steve Pentz (left), a consultant for Novatech, and James Beach (right), director of real estate development for Broccolini, both argued in favour of the rezoning application. (Kate Porter/CBC)

'Valid comments'

James Beach, Broccolini's director of real estate development, surprised the audience by telling the committee their request was actually for something generic and flexible.

"To be clear, Broccolini has not submitted an application or a proposal for a 700,000-square-foot mega warehouse," said Beach.

It was city staff who asked the company to provide a concept, he explained, and that a specific building design would come next.

Broccolini doesn't yet have a tenant lined up.

"The comments we heard today are valid comments, which we will 100 per cent need to address for an upcoming application for site plan," Beach told CBC News.

"Otherwise we will not be able to move forward and obtain a building permit."

The rezoning goes to city council on Dec. 11.

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