Meehan ‘Caught Off Guard’ by Warehouse Application

By Barrhaven Independent Staff

A day after Ottawa city council approved a motion to allow for zoning amendments to change for the South Merivale Business Park, an application has been brought forward to build a large e-commerce warehouse with 100 truck bays on the site.

Gloucester-South Nepean councillor Carol Anne Meehan, who has been strongly opposed to the zoning amendment change, says she was “caught off guard” and was “blindsided” to hear the news after being told multiple times that no plans for the business park were currently in the works.

“We were told all through the process; the hearing that we had; the special open house we hosted;  through planning committee and council; that there was no official applicant attached to this zoning bylaw amendment request,” Meehan told the Manotick Messenger. “They kept saying we can’t talk (number of) trucks because there was no applicant and they were just preparing this land to make it look more appealing to anyone who would come along and want to build on the land.”

On June 9, Ottawa’s city council voted 15 to nine in favour of a zoning bylaw amendment, to allow for a large warehouse and transport truck terminal to be built on the South Merivale Business Park. This despite strong support from community members, and a petition of over 4,000 signatures. Some who live in the area say this type of development would cause too much noise, traffic and pollution, especially without adequate infrastructure upgrades. Meehan pleaded with council to listen to the community’s wants and not vote in favour of the change, but her many attempts were ignored and knocked down. Both planning committee and council approved the changes despite not knowing what would be developed on the site and who the possible tenants would be.

Meehan says she’s now puzzled as to why zoning amendments would have to change in the first place, because the application which has been brought forward doesn’t require any changes to the zoning amendment.

Under the new plan, an office that spans almost 17,000 square feet would be built, alongside a 262,000-square-foot warehouse — about a quarter the size of the Amazon distribution centre on Boundary Road. The land would also include roughly 500 parking spots for vehicles and 313 spots for tractor trailers, in addition to the 100 loading bays. Because the plan calls for a small office, it would make the warehouse a secondary rather than primary use, meaning this type of development has been allowed for decades.

“What is strange about this whole thing is they have been sitting on this for quite some time,” she said. “What’s really funny about it is this would have been permitted through the current zoning — they didn’t need a zoning bylaw amendment.

“It is weird that they weren’t able to tell us what they were planning,” Meehan added. “My antenna is up though because this site plan was ready a day after the council.”

Meehan says she predicts if the zoning amendment is officially passed, then a much bigger plan can be approved for a larger warehouse and more transport truck bays.

“They could have given us the courtesy of letting us know that this would happen, but they didn’t,  and I have a problem with that,” she said. “Keeping councillors and the community in the dark is just not right. The planning process has to take into account the feelings and wishes of the local residents which certainly did not happen.”

Meehan says she, alongside Knoxdale-Merivale councillor Keith Egli plan to hold another public meeting in early July to share with residents what’s happening. She’s hoping the applicant will be willing to speak about what’s coming next.

Meehan says residents of the community feel like their concerns weren’t listened to and that councillors who they vote in to represent their needs, didn’t listen.

“They feel appalled; they feel like they have been played; they feel like the fix was in and they are concerned about what might be happening,” Meehan said. “If councillors can’t get information, how the heck is the community supposed to get information?”

Site plan applications are typically approved by city staff, but Meehan plans to take the rare step of removing their delegated authority so the file instead goes before planning committee for another debate and decision. Meehan says the community’s demanding more control and this is the only tool they currently have available.