Ottawa

Councillor feels misled by plans for new Barrhaven warehouse

One Ottawa city councillor is "annoyed and shocked" to learn a developer has applied to build a warehouse with 100 truck bays in Barrhaven after she was told no clear plan existed for the land.

Carol Anne Meehan 'caught off guard' by warehouse plan with 100 truck bays

Land owned by Zena-Kinder Holdings Limited Inc. beside the RCMP headquarters in Barrhaven could soon have an office and distribution warehouse with 100 truck bays. (CBC)

One Ottawa city councillor is annoyed the City of Ottawa has been asked to approve a large e-commerce warehouse with 100 truck bays in Barrhaven after she was told no solid plan actually existed.

Carol Anne Meehan, who represents the ward of Gloucester-South Nepean had fought giving Zena-Kinder Holdings Limited the ability to build a truck terminal and warehouse in the South Merivale Business Park, arguing such warehouses — including the truck traffic — should be located near 400-series highways, not residential areas.

On two occasions in May, consultants told meeting attendants there were no imminent plans or tenants for the site. Then last week, city council voted in favour of rezoning the land despite knowing little about what could be built, as well as receiving a petition with 3,126 signatures that opposed the rezoning.

Meehan said she was "caught off guard" when she later learned an application had arrived on June 3 with a plan for the site using the same Novatech consultant who had spoken at those May meetings.

"I'm confused, a little bit annoyed, and shocked," she said, worried about potential truck traffic in the area of Prince of Wales Drive and Merivale Road. 

"They wanted to keep us in the dark as long as possible on everything. I think that's not fair to the planning process, it's not fair to the communities that are going to be affected by whatever comes."

The site plan for a new "sortation facility" in the South Merivale Business Park would occupy the largest of three lots on a property owned by Zena-Kinder Holdings Ltd. (City of Ottawa/Ware Malcomb)

Meehan says consultants should have been upfront with decision makers about the forthcoming proposal, but Novatech consultant Greg Winters argues the situation is not that simple.

Winters said his firm was hired by two different clients for two different tasks: Zena-Kinder Holdings Limited to rezone the property to help market it, and Medusa LP to apply for the 100-truck distribution centre. 

He said he didn't know details about the two companies' negotiations for redeveloping the site when he appeared before planning committee.

Public meeting being organized

As it turns out, the new warehouse proposal didn't even need the new rezoning approval. It has a small office that makes the warehouse a secondary rather than primary use, which has been allowed for years.

The new plan calls for an office that spans almost 17,000 square feet, along with a 262,000-square-foot warehouse — about a quarter the size of the Amazon distribution centre on Boundary Road — to deal with orders for a variety of e-commerce retailers.

The land would also include almost 500 parking spots for vehicles and 313 for tractor trailers, in addition to the 100 loading bays. 

In a statement, the City of Ottawa's Don Herweyer said staff notified area councillors of the new application on June 4.

Typically, site plan applications are simply approved by city staff, but Meehan intends to take the rare step of removing their delegated authority so the file instead goes before planning committee for another debate and decision.

"The community is demanding that we have more control. It's the only tool that I have at this point to have some control over what's going forward," said Meehan.

In late May, Ottawa's planning committee unanimously approved a rezoning for 30 hectares of land on the north edge of Barrhaven owned by Zena-Kinder Holdings. (City of Ottawa/Novatech)

In the meantime, she and Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli are organizing another public meeting for residents. 

Egli says residents will have questions about the optics and timing of the new warehouse application. He hopes they can now get answers from the consultants about the impact of a distribution centre.

"It would have been nice to get it earlier, but we can have that discussion now," Egli said.

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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