Ottawa

Warehouse and truck terminal in Barrhaven get committee's OK

A business park in Ottawa's south end that never became the high-tech campus envisioned a generation ago could instead house a warehouse and truck terminal to cater to the present-day online shopping trend.

Petition draws 3,900 signatures, while 160 attended a community meeting in mid-May

Land owned by Zena-Kinder Holdings Limited Inc. beside the RCMP headquarters in Barrhaven. The holding company has requested to have the land rezoned so that it could potentially build a warehouse one day. (CBC)

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  • City council voted 15-9 for the rezoning on June 9, 2021.

A business park in Ottawa's south end that never became the high-tech campus envisioned a generation ago could instead house a warehouse and truck terminal to cater to the present-day online shopping trend.

Ottawa's planning committee on Thursday unanimously approved the request by Zena-Kinder Holdings Limited Inc. to rezone its vacant 30-hectare property in the South Merivale Business Park on the north edge of Barrhaven, despite opposition from residents concerned about a lack of details.

Some 3,900 people signed a petition and 160 residents attended a community meeting in mid-May.

"We're looking for a prestige business park and what it entails," said Barry King, a nearby resident and a member of the Rideau Glen Ratepayer's Association.

In 2006, the RCMP took over the former JDS Uniphase campus in the business park for its national headquarters.

'Don't give [residents] a reason to go away more cynical. I know a lot of them feel this is a done deal.'​​​​​​- Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Carol Anne Meehan

Residents felt the rezoning to allow a warehouse just to the north, however, was now being "railroaded through," King said.

"We're being asked to take a pig in a poke here," said Daintry Topshee of the Glens Community Association, saying the request lacked detail about the transport truck traffic, noise, pollution, or a future tenant. 

Jordan Lane-Beveridge, president of Country Place Community Association, shared a similar opinion with the committee.

"We the voters, the taxpayers, your residents, we're speaking to you," he said. "I do not believe we're in a position to make an intelligent decision based on the information we have."

Future development undecided

The business park has been a designated employment zone near the airport since the early 1990s.

While no development is currently planned, the owners want to be allowed a range of uses, and that could include a warehouse as a secondary use, said Greg Winters with consulting firm Novatech.

"Everybody thinks immediately we're going to be doing a large distribution warehouse," he said. "It might be those two buildings you've seen on the concept plan, or it might be 19 smaller buildings."

Had the tech bust not prevented JDS Uniphase from turning the area into high-tech offices, it might have employed 10,000 people, noted Jack Stirling, another consultant.

A map of the business park, with Zena-Kinder's 30 hectares in blue. (City of Ottawa/Novatech)

City planner Allison Hamlin said it's not unusual for a property owner to rezone land to try to attract a user.

Innes Coun. Laura Dudas said she could sympathize with residents unhappy with the ramifications of the online shopping trend.

"We've gone through the pandemic and we've seen Amazon dropping off packages to our homes," she said. "We're all benefiting from having some of these facilities close by, but not necessarily living right next to it." 

Nearby councillors back residents

The two councillors with neighbourhoods closest to the site — Gloucester-South Nepean Coun.Carol Anne Meehan and Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli — failed to convince planning committee colleagues to side with unhappy residents.

"Don't give [them] a reason to go away more cynical," Meehan had argued. "I know a lot of them feel this is a done deal."

Planning chair Coun. Jan Harder, however, was glad the business park would "finally take flight".

Business groups representing Barrhaven, Carp and the local francophone community also supported the rezoning and urged the city to be open to changing trends that could spur economic development.

The file goes to full city council for a vote on June 9.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Porter

Reporter

Kate Porter covers municipal affairs for CBC Ottawa. Over the past two decades, she has also produced in-depth reports for radio, web and TV, regularly presented the radio news, and covered the arts beat.

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