Wednesday, October 3, 2007

CocoBox Update

Since the PAC meeting last week, SDW has been reviewing the publicly available data on the approval for the proposed development at the corner of Sprucewood and Matchette directly behind the current raceway. You might remember that this is Jenny Coco and company, as represented by the numbered company 1223244 Ontario Ltd. After getting our hands on the meeting minutes from PAC, we discovered a couple of juicy tidbits that we thought we’d pass along to our readers.

1. First, and this one blew me away, EPAC, represented by Rob Spring at the PAC meeting, concurred with the recommendation that the land be converted to commercial space suggesting that the impact of commercial development would be less than a residential development. It is unfortunate that EPAC is willing to concede their position on this file. To their credit they did try and recommend a parkland development first although I don’t think that gives them absolution for their current position. Since when did we decide that choosing between the lesser of two evils was acceptable in this city?

2. The Town of LaSalle is opposed to this development and hired the firm Cushman & Wakefield LePage to draft a peer review of the plan. Per the meeting minutes (thanks to Kevin O’Neil for putting me on to this) for the June 26th LaSalle town council, they are ‘unanimously opposed’ to this development. That’s good news for us as this development will require partial approval from LaSalle for the changes to the transportation infrastructure it requires. (Though I think we should handle our own problems in Windsor and not rely on LaSalle to do our “dirty work”.)

3. This proposed site is actually larger than reported in the paper. Some will say, what’s another 20,000 square feet when you are already building 400,000? Given that your average main street business is about 2,000 square feet, it means another 10 businesses worth of selling space. Another 10 local merchants have their futures placed in jeopardy. For the record, 420,000 square feet of retail space are planned.

4. If anyone tries to tell you that this is simply a Commercial Centre, quote them this line: “Mr. Slopen describes the proposal to build … including restaurants, shops and larger big-box type stores.” Later on he concedes that a Loblaw Supercentre is planned for this space. Hey, if their lawyer said it, it must be true!

5. Mr. Slopen, a lawyer for the applicant from the law firm Miller Canfield, makes repeated attempts to coerce PAC into accepting the amendments to Recommendation IV which include removing the requirement for an Environmental Assessment. ‘Why?’ you ask. In his own words -- “the Class Environmental Assessment could slow down the process…and in [my] opinion; there is no reason to carry out this assessment.”

Alas, Mr. Slopen and the applicant succeeded in getting this amendment approved by PAC.

FYI – here is how PAC members voted. (Looks like the fight is on with our PAC sitting city councilors as all voted in favour of the project!)

For: Councilors Hatfield, Postma and Dilkens, Mr. Asmar and Mr. Baker

Against: Ms. Growe-Zdyb, Ms. Cross-Leal and Ms. Willis-More

Write your councilors and let them know that you do not want businesses in Windsor that want to detour around the EA process. We want good corporate citizens in Windsor, who care about the people and the environment of our city. Remember, this is scheduled to go before council on October 29, so time is short to get the word out to your representatives!

PS: Look for more on this topic from SDW in the coming weeks!


Alan McKInnon said...

I think you give EPAC a hard time when it is ERCA that should be called out here. They have much more power and influence.

From the minutes:
".... ERCA, which is the protector of Provincial lands and the body that enforces environmental issues contained in the Policy Statement, have commented favourably regarding the development. "

(One note: Slopen/Tanner actually have it wrong, which is funny considering how much they get paid. The MNR is the protector of Provincial lands.
But ERCA does play an influential role in when/how/where that protection is pursued.)

Rumour has it that the Coco companies are one of ERCA's largest benefactors. Go figure.

What choice does EPAC have?
The current zoning is residential. As I understand it, one plan showed 500 homes on the land in question. The impact of 500 basements on the hydro-geology of the Prairie, not too mention 500 pesticide-spraying, driveway-oil-changing residents helps explain the seeming counter-intuitiveness of supporting commercial over residential. If you read EPAC's list of conditions for their approval, you get a better sense of where they are coming from. Wether they will actually be a part of the site plan process, or if any of their conditions will actually be met is another story.

Also, your outraged rhetoric
about " Since when do we settle for the lesser of two evils..." I recall you (J.Biggley/Greens) supporting the City's original Schwartz Plan which routed a highway directly through protected natural areas of Ojibway. Not adjacent, but within actual parklands.
The justifications for that support were pretty flimsy...something about "giving" them the bypass in order to obtain the promised "multi modal" elements that were obviously window dressing/con job.

The Greens support of Schwartz's Ojibway destoying bypass remains posted on the City's Schwartz web page to this day, even though a half-assed retraction of that support was eventually made.

So, I dont want to further divisiveness, but what are blogs for if not a bit of controversy and sniping? And complaining about the "lesser of 2 evils" in this case? Well that's a stretch given your recent history.

I was at the PAC meeting, and as entertaining as Mr. Slopen is, the real star was Percy Hatfield.
Boy, you sure can pick 'em in Windsor.

In my opinion, he was implying that they should approve the Big Box as a big F.U. to Lasalle for Mayor Gary Baxter's recent public comments supporting the DRIC process.

Yeah, that's a good development strategy.
Just as the border file, this Big Box file shows that what we really need is regional government.
Instead of these petty pissing matches between Windsor, Lasalle and Tecumseh "leaders"..we could
gain strength through unity.

Here's my pitch, I made it to Councillor Hatfield
and he nearly rolled his eyes right out of his head:

Lasalle should do a land swap with Coco.
They have existing commercial lands they want to fill. They then donate the Coco land to extend the protected areas of Ojibway. A new era of neighbourly love between Windsor and Lasalle is ushered in.

Given that DRIC is proposing to put 80 acres of concrete plaza 2km to the west of this, wouldn't it be entirely feasible to get them to contribute toward the cost? As part of their "mitigation"?
If their project is ever built, no matter which of their remaining "options" goes ahead, the impact on the Ojibway Complex is undeniable. Indeed, they are not denying it.

It would cost a fortune to buy out the private land owners (Coco). But the opportunity to expand and enhance the Ojibway complex is worth 10 fortunes. One thing people don't tuly understand is that Ojibway cannot be relocated. It is a small, defined area, with a very unique water table and a level of bio-diversity that matches the rain forests of Costa Rica. It is not Malden Park (ie. a reclaimed dump).
How ironic to hear the Convention and Visitors Bureau going on about developing "eco-tourism" opportunities and partnerships lately.

The Coco site would be perfect for a butterfly conservatory like they have in Guelph and Niagra.
Talk about a "destination". Plus, Ojibway is one of the top site for butterfly and insect diversity in Canada.

Too bad our "leaders" are so lacking in long term vision. Percy supported the removal of the EA requirement so the new big boxes can be up and running for the 2008 Xmas shopping season.

I'm not kidding.

I see it everywhere, chasing the short term gain at the expense of long term QUALITY.

The paradox is this: Are you going to go to council and oppose the re-zoning?
What if they build housing there instead?
ERCA supports commercial, EPAC supports commercial. you'll be twisting in the wind.

I think one opening that should be pursued is this: The Provincial Policy statement holds that "no negative impact to the ecological function" has to be proven for any development within 50 meteres of a "provincially significant ANSI". The Provincial Prairie Reserve is a provincially significant ANSI and more, so a reasonable case can be made to say an EA is absolutely required for the re-design/re-build of the Matchette/Sprucewood intersection. They are complaing that a "class EA" would take too much time when in fact a much more detailed Individual EA is what is appropriate
considering the Prov. reserve is in a distinct class of Provincial Parks meant to protect our most fragile/endangered ecosystems.

We need a good pro bono environmental lawyer.
Or someone with 10 million bucks to buy it out.

Ojibway Park turns 50 this year!
They are doing free fall colour tours thanksgiving Monday, it is a beautiful time roam the complex.
Enjoy the peace of nature while it's still there.

Josh Biggley said...


Welcome to SDW!

Yes, you are right -- when Schwartz made his pitch the Greens, in a press release, that I authored, which was approved by the Greens at large, support was expressed for the project given the promise of a multi-modal transportation system. To our defense, we did not support the path through Ojibway, though that point was lost in my poorly worded press release.

That being said, unlike politicians, I reserve the right, and will readily admit, to being WRONG! Yep, you heard it here first. Very much like EPAC is doing with the Coco-Mart project, I justified the lesser of two evils, hoping to get a multi-modal transit system out of a larger traffic project. Supporting the circus that has become the Swartz project, etc. is something that I regret AND have changed my viewpoint on. Windsor is not a speed-bump in the 401 Super Highway. We are a strong, vibrant and viable community. It is time we start acting like one!

Thanks for reminding me that I am not perfect and subject, just like the next guy, to being bamboozled. That makes my criticism of EPAC all that more important -- so that they realize that they are aiding and abetting an ecological/social/economic genocide. Yes, 500 homes would be worse, but Jenny Coco doesn't want to build homes. She knows, like most builders know, that there is no market in Windsor for a new home subdivision of that size, or almost any size right now. This isn't about what Windsor needs, it is about making money!

I was, and still am, disappointed by the position of both EPAC and ERCA. I really feel like they gave up this fight way too early. This isn't an Us vs EPAC/ERCA vs Them, it should be a We vs Greed deal. I hope that EPAC/ERCA still have some fight left in them when this proposal gets rejected by council.

keep up the good work on the Swartz project. Grass-roots can win the fight for a better Windsor and Essex County and SDW is out to prove that!


BTW: Check out the SDW stance on the border profile. Chris has a great article about rethinking the transportation of goods vs transporting goods faster. Everything takes on a whole new light when viewed with economic, social and ecological sustainability viewpoint.