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Winston Churchill warehouses approved despite residents' concerns

Residents fear “mega” warehouses will bring noise, traffic and air pollution

A short stretch of Winston Churchill Boulevard will soon be home to over two million square feet of warehouse space, in a grouping of buildings that critics claim will be Canada's largest warehouse complex.

Five warehouses on two adjacent properties on the west side of the road received conditional approval from Oakville town council on Monday night, despite concerns from residents backing onto the development.

Those warehouses will feature 1.3 million sq.ft. of space and 226 tractor-trailer docks.

On the east side of Winston Churchill, construction is currently underway on a nearby 745,000 sq.ft. warehouse approved by the city of Mississauga.

"When we say mega, we're not exaggerating. It really truly is mega," said Marion Richardson, a board member with the Joshua Creek Residents Association (JCRA).

Representatives from JCRA, along with more than 20 other residents, took part in about a four-and-a-half-hour discussion of the development at town council's June 27 planning and development meeting.

Noise, traffic, and air pollution were the biggest concerns for neighbours. Questions were also raised about the quality of studies and mitigation plans designed to protect residents from the impacts of the development.

Despite that, councillors eventually voted 9-3 to approve the site plan applications for the warehouses.

As town staff and politicians reminded residents throughout the evening, there really wasn't the option to say no.

Land designated for business employment use

The 28 hectares of land from 560 to 750 Winston Churchill are designated for business employment, which permits warehouses, explained town planning director Gabe Charles.

Charles presented the report from planning staff, which recommended approval of the project once the developers have met certain conditions.

"As a site plan application, what we are dealing with at this point is the technical implementation of the land use," he said. "This isn't a situation where council really has an ability to refuse an application; it's really about how do we put some shape to the functionality of the site plan."

A site plan typically considers road widenings, accesses, parking and loading facilities, walkways and pedestrian access, lighting, accessibility, landscaping, garbage, grading and drainage.

But the currently vacant properties, located about 2.5 kilometres south of the QEW interchange, also back onto Aspen Forest Park and about 50 residential properties.

Town of Oakville
Town of Oakville

Despite technical reports that suggest the roadway can manage the additional truck traffic and noise impacts for neighbours will be mitigated by  building placement, residents said the scale of use will ruin the character of their southeast Oakville neighbourhood.

"I don't think we need experts to tell us what's wrong," said Claremont Crescent resident Kenton Martin. "I think everyone on this call tonight can sense that this magnitude of development is not reasonable within 50 metres of residents."

No tenants have been identified for the warehouses. One of the properties is owned by ONE Properties, while 11087258 Canada Inc owns the other.

The site plan applications were before the town for more than a year, giving the developers the right to apply to the province's Ontario Land Tribunal for a decision at any time.

With that possible stick urging the town toward a decision, the applicants held out a carrot.

In a letter dated June 9, the developers offered the town a $250,000 payment if it approved the site plan applications by June 27.

The money is to be used for a splash pad and other improvements at Aspen Forest Park.

A number of residents urged the town to hold out for more, including noise walls surrounding the properties and other limits on use.

"We're beseeching you – don't be bullied by the developer. You should say, 'not yet,' and try to work with them," urged Martin Singer, who lives on Acacia Crescent.

Councillors also heard from Brian Mounce, a JCRA director. He collected nearly 1,300 names on a petition in opposition to the development, along with making a YouTube video to raise neighbourhood awareness of the project.

“It’s felt like we’ve been put in a straightjacket, told to accept our lot and not to wiggle too much for fear it could annoy the developers,” he said. “It is a terrible feeling."

"I implore the town to do everything in its power to shelter us and protect us because it seems certain that mitigation, limitation and enforcement offer the only hope remaining to us."

Best we can do, says mayor

Ward 3 councillors Janet Haslett-Theall and Dave Gittings urged fellow councillors not to approve the projects but to seek more information.

"This is not a decision on something that is going to disappear in one or two years," said Haslett-Theall. "It is a decision that is long-standing."

“We need to do better. We need to do better for them because our land use permissions have not evolved and addressed land use intensity the way they should.”

But Mayor Rob Burton said he was "happy to vote in favour," thanks to conditions on the approval requiring the developers to complete additional studies and planning to the satisfaction of town planners.

"This is the best we're going to be able to do," he said. "We're going to get full mitigation for operation at full capacity. There isn't any site plan decision better than that."

The final council vote was 9-3 in favour of the site plan applications.

  • Yes votes: Burton, Cathy Duddeck, Ray Chisholm, Peter Longo, Jeff Knoll, Marc Grant, Tom Adams, Natalia Lishchyna and Pavan Parmar.
  • No votes: Gittings, Haslett-Theall and Allan Elgar.
  • Absent: Sean O'Meara, Beth Robertson and Jasvinder Sandhu.