Council approves amendment for truck depot

Carol Anne Meehan opposes, but councillors vote 15-9 in favour of the South Merivale Business Park zoning

By Charlie Senack

A controversial zoning amendment to allow for a transport truck depot and terminal to be built on the South Merivale Business Park has been approved by Ottawa City Council.

During Ottawa’s council meeting on Wednesday, June 9, councillors voted 15 to nine in favour of the change. Two weeks ago, planning committee unanimously voted in favour of the zoning amendment.

Councillor Carol Anne Meehan, whose Gloucester-South Nepean Ward the business park sits in, has been openly opposed to the amendment. During the council meeting on Wednesday, she urged her colleagues to vote against the amendment.

“When it comes to this extremely important issue not just for my ward but a lot of wards in the south end of the city, I want to speak in opposition of the Bylaw amendment,” she said. 

Meehan said the South Merivale Business Park is situated between two-lane roads which, while designated truck routes, are already congested with traffic.

“Pre pandemic these roads were pure gridlock,” Meehan told council, referencing Merivale, Fallowfield, Greenbank, Woodroffe, and Prince of Wales roads. She also noted one of her reasons for running as a councillor back in 2018, was because she felt the city’s planning department could do more to better traffic and lessen congestion in the Barrhaven and Riverside South areas.

“I knew back then we could do better — at least I thought we could,” Meehan said. “Here we are in 2021 in a scenario few of us could have envisioned: retail habits have changed, leading to more trucks on our roads.”

When the zoning amendment application was first brought forward to rezone land at 2 and 20 Leikin Drive and 99 Bill Leathem Drive, the applicants said they were looking for the site to be rezoned to Light Industrial Zone, Subzone 9, in order to permit the development. That would allow for a warehouse and transport terminal to be built on the site, which could potentially be in operation 24 hours a day and would include a distribution operation.

4,000 sign petition

Many nearby residents said they were concerned about the impacts this type of development could have with noise and pollution in the typically quite suburban neighborhood. An online petition was started which garnered nearly 4,000 signatures in opposition of the proposal.

“There is a petition in front of us today with 4,000 signatures on it,” Knoxdale-Merivale councillor Keith Egli said during Wednesday’s meeting. “The virtual open house that was held a couple of weeks ago was one of the business planning open houses I’ve ever attended.”

Egli also noted that councillors are there to vote on behalf of their constituents and to represent their voices at the council table.

Bay ward councillor Theresa Kavanagh said she was concerned about the traffic and impacts that could play on cyclists who bike in the area. Catherine McKenney, who is a downtown councillor for her ward of Somerset, said she could understand the residents’ concerns about noise and the amount of trucks on the road. She also said councillors are not giving their constituents ownership, noting residents know their neighbourhoods better than anyone.

Kitchissippi councillor Jeff Leiper, who voted in favour of the zoning amendment during planning committee two weeks ago, said he’s since changed his tune. After “reluctantly” voting in favour, he now felt the need to vote with his values and also had concerns about not knowing the proposed use or tenant for the site.

Scott Moffatt who is councillor for Rideau Goulbourn, a ward which saw its own controversial zoning application for a warehouse in North Gower, said he’d vote in favour of the amendment, and also criticized Councillor Meehan’s comments regarding other city’s not using two-lane roads as truck routes.

“In the case of the Amazon site in Barrhaven, it is actually closer to residential neighborhoods than this site is,” he told council. “The site was zoned for this; it was zoned for these types of purposes years ago.”

The South Merivale Business Park did in fact allow for warehouses and transport truck depots to be built on the site when it first opened in the 1980’s. Bylaws however were altered in the late 1990’s when the site’s vision changed to keep up with the big tech industry boom.

But even so, Gloucester-South Nepean Councillor Carol Anne Meehan says we can’t look back at history to make decisions now.

“The owners of the attractive land in question in South Merivale see a great opportunity — I certainly would as well I’m sure — well good for them but not for the residents,” she said.

In a statement to the Barrhaven Independent following council’s vote in favour of the zoning amendment, Meehan said she was disappointed by the outcome.

“I am very disappointed that the majority of my Council colleagues voted against residents and taxpayers. Thousands signed a petition and over 160 attended a public meeting organized by my office to denounce plans to allow a Truck Depot warehouse in the South Merivale Business Park,” she said. “It was clear that the interests of the community were sacrificed for the interests of the development lobby and the Councillors that serve their needs. I would like to thank my eight Council colleagues that stood with me and our community.”

While no application has been brought forward for the site to be developed yet, Meehan has said in the past that she believes that will soon follow this controversial vote.