Re-zoning for Barrhaven truck depot approved

By Charlie Senack

Barrhaven Independent

A zoning amendment to allow a warehouse and transport truck depot to be built on the South Merivale Business Park has been unanimously approved by Ottawa’s planning committee.

During a roughly four hour-long planning committee meeting on Thursday, May 27, multiple delegations spoke on the motion to expand uses on the business park land located at 2 and 20 Leikin Drive and 99 Bill Leathem Drive.

Three community associations were a part of the delegations, alongside members of the Rideau Glen neighborhood. All oppose and say that truck traffic would ruin people’s quality of life. Representatives for the land owners offered support to the motion. The Barrhaven and Carp business improvement areas were also among those offering support.

Karen Meades, who helped launch a petition to show opposition to the motion, told the committee that while they want to see the land developed, this proposal wasn’t the right fit and didn’t “represent responsible growth.”

“The likely impact is severe, we think it’s far reaching, and we think it will change the distinct identity of the community,” she said. “We think it will change it forever.”

Residents in the neighborhood near the South Merivale Business Park say they are concerned about the large number of trucks which could pass through the neighborhood on any given day. Some estimates have said it could be as much as 1,000 transport trucks a day, however planning committee heard it would be a maximum of 400 and “that’s a worse case scenario.”

On top of the noise this would cause, Meades said they are also concerned about what the increase in traffic could mean for safety issues, and the environmental impact.

“The truck depot promises to wreak havoc on our roads with the addition of vehicles and truck activity 24 hours a day,” Meades told planning committee Thursday. “Especially Prince of Wales, Merivale, and Fallowfield (which are) two lanes without sidewalks or bike paths. Trucks to and from the site will be using these roads.”

The petition which was launched by Meades alongside other community members, had close to 4,000 signatures by the start of the planning committee meeting. Barbara Motzney who is another concerned citizen, told the committee it speaks volumes to how much opposition there is.

“For a community to react to an issue of concern in COVID times is particularly challenging,” she said, adding the large number of signatures and a well attended public consultation of close to 200 people last week, is a clear sign the motion should be shot down.

Motzney also echoed the sentiments of not being opposed to development on the site, and said they need to “maximize opportunity.”

“A truck transport terminal is not the right development in this community,” she said.

Residents and community associations from the Pine Glen and County Place neighborhoods off Merivale Road shared their concerns too about traffic and what it could mean during the afternoon and morning rush hour peaks. They also noted the safety impacts it could have on children who cross Merivale Road by foot or bike to attend nearby St. Monica Elementary School — concerns the Knoxdale-Merivale city councillor shares.

Jack Stirling, a consultant who represented Zena-Kinder Holdings Ltd, the company which owns the site, said if the park had been able to develop through the high-tech era, the zoning would have allowed for over 10 million square feet of development, which would have employed 10,000 people. Regarding the possible noise complaints, Stirling gave no sympathy for the nearby residents, saying they live on a flight path. He also noted the growing e-commerce sector in Ottawa which is becoming trend worthy.

Jason MacDonald, chair of the Barrhaven BIA, gave a presentation supporting the proposal, saying a development of this size would bring many jobs to Barrhaven. MacDonald, who is a realtor in Barrhaven, also questioned the petition, saying he’s only heard positive reviews.

“Consumer behaviour in today’s economy has driven up the demand for warehousing and last mile shipping,” MacDonald told planning committee in his presentation. “People expect quick and efficient delivery of goods, so they need to be located nearby.”

“The popularity and rise in online shopping have increased land demand for logistics uses and led to new technologies, such as robotics in warehousing or the use of connected and autonomous vehicles,” he added. “Expanding the permitted uses in the IL9 zone to include warehousing and logistics uses will position the lands to be developed in the future with land uses that require goods movement.”

Councillors Carol Anne Meehan and Keith Egli were not able to vote on the matter as they are not members of planning committee, however voiced their opposition to the motion.

Meehan said that while economic growth is always needed and is encouraged, roads in the neighbourhood around the business park don’t have the infrastructure to meet demand.

“I want more economic and more jobs — possibly more than anyone. I will support any company that’s coming in and wants to establish and hire more people in the community,” Meehan said. “But I have to say that this location in the South Merivale Business Park is absolutely the wrong location for a warehouse and transport truck terminal.”

When the business park was built decades ago, ByLaws in the former city of Nepean allowed for warehouses and transport truck depots on the site. Those rules changed in the late 1990’s when the vision for the park changed. Meehan says we shouldn’t look back on what should be done now.

“I don’t think 30 years ago they would have envisioned an Amazon-type warehouse with 2,800 trucks a week going through there,” she said.

“I would like to tell residents in my ward that there are ways to mitigate the traffic, but quite frankly there are not,” she said. “We don’t have the money — not until 2031 for a portion of Prince of Wales, not to mention Merivale, Fallowfield, Woodroffe. We are looking at traffic impacts on Barrhaven and Riverside South.”

Despite not knowing what products would be transported or how many buildings are expected to be built on the land, all members of the planning committee voted in favour of the motion.

In a statement to the Barrhaven Independent following the meeting, Gloucester-South Nepean Councillor Carol Anne Meehan, whose ward the business park is in, said she was disappointed by the decision.

“Although I am disappointed that my colleagues did not stand with my community, I am very grateful for the many residents who attended the public meeting arranged by my office and who took the opportunity to address the Planning Committee,” she said. “Moving forward, we need to ensure our community is not forgotten, and that the appropriate infrastructure is built to help our growing community manage the increase in traffic.”

Planning Committee Chair Jan Harder said any issues with traffic will be a job for the city’s transportation master plan. Council will vote on the motion June 9.