Amazon will not build giant warehouse on wetland in Pickering
Decision follows CBC News report on proposal to destroy wetland, fast-tracked by Ford government
Amazon will not put the largest retail warehouse in Canada on the site of a protected wetland in Pickering, CBC News has learned.
An official with Amazon Canada said Friday that the company is no longer considering the Duffins Creek wetland property for its new fulfilment centre, a project that could be as large as four million square feet of warehouse space.
The news comes two days after an in-depth report by CBC News on the warehouse proposal for the wetland, located just off Highway 401, east of Brock Road.
Friday is the deadline for the Toronto Region Conservation Authority to grant permission to the property owner, the Triple Group of Companies, to begin destroying the wetland.
It is not yet clear how Amazon's withdrawal from the proposal will affect the developer's plans to build on the wetland, which is designated as provincially significant.
In an email to CBC News on Friday, a spokesperson for Steve Clark, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, told CBC he is planning to reach out to Pickering and Durham Region "to ask if they would like the MZO amended to exclude the portion of the lands that would allow for the construction of a distribution centre."
"As always, when it comes to MZOs on non-provincial land, it is the municipalities who are in the driver's seat," spokesperson Stephanie Bellotto said.
In a tweet Friday, Pickering Mayor Dave Ryan posted a statement saying with the news of Amazon pulling out, "the appropriate next step is to pause any immediate disruption to the wetlands."
"I am truly disappointed for Pickering and its residents," Ryan said, adding his city lost a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to bring 2,000 jobs and an influx of revenue from development charges and taxes.
"The difficult decision to pursue development on these lands was made with the promise of significant jobs and investment, and that the developer and TRCA would negotiate a 1:1 wetland compensation agreement."
Read Mayor Ryan’s Official Statement: <a href="https://t.co/Kd4J9dp1tq">pic.twitter.com/Kd4J9dp1tq</a>—@CityofPickering
The Amazon official said the company is in exploratory conversations with multiple other locations for its expansion and never signed a lease commitment for the Pickering property.
The Ford government granted a special ministerial zoning order in October to allow construction on the Pickering wetland to try to fast-track the project, despite its protected status. The request for the ministerial zoning order came from the landowner and developer, not from Amazon.
- CBC InvestigatesWhat's really behind the Ford government's push to pave protected wetland in Pickering
Asked by CBC News for comment, the head of communications for Amazon Canada operations, Dave Bauer, sent a statement by email. "We were always considering multiple sites for our expansion and we take environmental issues very seriously," Bauer said.
CBC News sources say that a different developer is also in contention for the Amazon warehouse on a golf course property in Ajax, less than one kilometre away from the wetland.
That proposal is for a 2.7 million-square foot distribution centre on a site, recently rezoned to allow a warehouse. However the owner of the Pickering wetland has launched a legal appeal of that rezoning, delaying development from going ahead.
The Ajax developer asked the government a month ago for a ministerial zoning order to extricate the land from the appeal, but that has not been granted.
To help the Pickering developer, the Ford government issued an MZO two days after it was requested, reduced the power of conservation authorities to block development, introduced a bill to retroactively remove a law that prohibits construction on a protected wetland, and ordered the TRCA to issue a development permit for the site by Friday.