Controversial Canadian Tire DC approved

by Carolyn Gruske

CALEDON, Ontario—Despite a vocal group of local residents, Canadian Tire Corp has finally been given permission by the Ontario government to build a new distribution centre in the Bolton area of Caledon, Ontario.

Canadian Tire wants to build a 1.5 million square foot cross dock DC—including 101,00sqf of office space—on 73 hectares (180 acres). The plan is to construct the distribution centre in two phases, with phase one seeing space for 162 dock doors and phase two adding an additional 69 doors. When completed, the company expects the national DC to handle 1.56 million cubic metres (55 million cubic feet) of goods per year.

But before the hardware and auto parts retailer could go ahead with the construction, it needed approval from the municipal government and a zoning change. The site facility on the corner of Healey Road and Colerain Drive wasn’t zoned for that type of commercial development.

As indicated in official records from the Town of Caledon, which is located in Peel Region, changes had to be made to the official plan to “re-designate the subject lands from ‘Prime Agricultural Area’ to ‘General Industrial’ in order to permit a warehouse distribution facility and associated uses.”

Officially that meant moving from an “Agricultural One (A1) and Environmental Protection Area Two (EPA2)” designation to a “Serviced Industrial and Serviced Industrial–Exception” classification.

Residents who objected to the change, and the incoming facility, cite a number of reasons for the opposition. An online petition sums up a number of the objections to the DC.

“The results for residents of Bolton and surrounding areas would be a substantial  increase flow of transport trucks—approximately 800 additional trucks PER DAY! This would not only greatly increase traffic congestion in an already high traffic area but also greatly increase air pollution due to diesel exhaust. The supposed benefits argued by the Mayor and council, ie quick tax revenues and jobs (approximately 1000—mostly transfer of lower paying jobs from existing Brampton location) do not outweigh the detrimental affects on health, quality of life and opportunity costs for  smarter, cleaner, higher valued employment.

“If this passes, it will open the door to an additional 400 acres adjacent to this location that will be similarly zoned and used for warehousing.”

According to a statement provided to MM&D by Canadian Tire, the traffic estimates used by those who opposed the DC are not accurate.

“The anticipated traffic increase is less than one percent on Highway 50 [the major highway in the area]. There is also capacity to increase traffic on Coleraine. We are forecasting the average daily number using the proposed facility to be 350 trucks per day (175 in and 175 out) at full build out (when phase two is complete). This number is based on traffic studies that were reviewed and approved by the town and region, as well as decades of expertise operating distribution centres and transportation networks.”

Despite objections, the town council voted to support the zoning change and green-light Canadian Tire’s plan, but at that point their hands were tied and the project was unable to move forward. The town’s official plan—Official Plan Amendment (OPA) 226—is currently in front of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) due to an unrelated matter, and while the OMB studies the plan all zoning changes and requests for the town are in limbo.

To get around the roadblock the Region of Peel and the Town of Caledon appealed directly to the Linda Jeffrey, the province’s minister of municipal affairs and housing, to intercede on their behalf. That led to the issuing of a minister’s zoning order, which grants Canadian Tire permission to go ahead with its construction plans.

Mike Maka, a spokesperson for the Jeffrey, explains that a minister’s zoning order is “is a tool under the Planning Act the minister can use to control how land is used in Ontario.”

He added that while the issuing of an order “is not common, it’s not uncommon.”

According to Maka, “the town needs to move forward now so that Canadian Tire can start construction on the warehouse distribution centre this year.

“We took this step to bring certainty to the community of Caledon and the Greater Toronto Area who will benefit from new economic opportunities,” he said.

One of the reasons the Ontario government approved the plan is Canadian Tire is reported to have told Caledon councillors it purchased land in Montreal it could use to build a DC there. If the company did decide to move operations into Quebec, it would be mean the loss of a large number of jobs for Ontario, as Canadian Tire plans to shut its Brampton, Ontario warehouse once the new national DC opens. The Canadian Tire website lists the number of people working at the Brampton DC as 1,850 and says “each year, they move approximately 160 million units of product, sourced from 3,400 suppliers, to the Canadian Tire stores across the country.”

As to the fate of the Brampton workforce, Canadian Tire said, “the location of the new DC will allow Canadian Tire to maintain the existing skilled workforce from the Bramalea facility”. (Bramalea is part of Brampton.)

Construction at the building site—which was chose in due to “its proximity to the CN and CP intermodal facilities, important consumer markets as well as the desire to retain our skilled employees in Peel Region—is expected to begin this summer.