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Cambridge council responds to province outlining consultation around Blair warehouse project

A response letter has been sent to the province outlining the city's public consultation on the approved Blair warehouse project

The City of Cambridge has written a response letter to the province showing proof of consultation for the approved warehouse project in Blair. 

In a letter dated Nov. 22, the letter outlines that Broccolini Real Estate Group and the city have had meaningful engagement with Six Nations of the Grand River and the public over the project. 

Part of the letter included proof of consultation between Broccolini Real Estate Group and the Indigenous community. 

"It is my understanding that Broccolini met with them," said McGarry, "and it's important to note that the core lands where the project will be located has been zoned as "M1" industrial since 2015," she said. 

That "M1" status allows warehouses, hotels, and offices to be built. The zoning also permits an unlimited height for buildings within the draft plan of subdivision.

An archeological assessment was done in 2005 where it states, "nothing of archeological significance was discovered. The then-Ministry of Culture confirmed that “Provincial concerns for cultural heritage have been fulfilled to the satisfaction of this Ministry” by letter dated May 27, 2005. The archeological assessment for the remaining project lands is ongoing," McGarry wrote. 

The letter said a draft plan of subdivision and zoning bylaw amendment took place in 2011. The proposed development consisted of an industrial business park with 14 lots, with more than one building permitted on each lot. 

A meeting was requested by Six Nations of the Grand River with Broccolini Real Estate Aug. 9. According to Broccolini, the company gave a presentation to the Six Nations Lands and Resources Land Use Unit and Consultation and Accommodations Process team. Questions were raised surrounding environmental sustainability and questions were asked about the project. 

The final site plans were presented by Broccolini Real Estate Group to the city on Nov. 10, and staff deemed it to be a complete site plan application. 

"Broccolini has assured the city that it will continue to have those conversations with our First Nations partners," said McGarry. 

McGarry wrote to Minister Clark, "I hope that this letter satisfies your concerns that meaningful Indigenous engagement has occurred. As the City indicated previously, it remains willing to attend any meeting between the Minister’s Office and either Six Nations or MCFN." 

Last month, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark gave the City of Cambridge a deadline of Nov. 30 to respond to concerns around the consultation process, which he stated could be a revocation of the MZO if the city didn't comply or properly consult with Indigenous communities. 

The group that opposes the project, Blair Engaged doesn't agree that proper consultation has taken place. 

"Either Mayor McGarry does not understand the meaning of consultation or she is complicit in deliberately subverting the rights of residents to participate in local decision making," said Van Norman in a release. "While the Mayor is assuring Minister Clark consultation has occurred, letters are piled high on her desk from residents and First Nations stating unequivocally that consultation has not occurred, and can't occur by the Nov. 30, 2021 deadline imposed by the Minister. Mayor McGarry continues to deny concerned citizens the opportunity to speak with City Council or staff about this MZO and the impacts it is having on the local environment, traffic safety and democracy."

The lawyer representing the group said this has been a nightmare of a process.

"This has been the MZO from hell," said David Donnelly, Principal of Donnelly Law. "I can't believe that people are actually considering preserving a Minister's Zoning Order where there was no consultation with First Nations," he said. 

The group is calling on the City of Cambridge to rescind the MZO and to hold proper consultations with the community of Blair. 

"Rescind the MZO and return to the normal planning process wherein we get to participate in a decision that has a major impact on our neighbourhood, said Van Norman, "we have residents here that live across the street from this development. The earlier development that McGarry referred to and wanted to piggy back on the public consultation, that development after years of back and forth ended with respect for it's location so close to neighbours. This development is disrespectful of its neighbours and pushes their building right in our face," he said. 

That sentiment is echoed by the lawyer representing Blair Engaged. 

"If the MZO isn't rescinded, this MZO sets a dangerous precedent for future decision making across Canada, as governments and corporations will be encouraged to approve now, and consult residents and First Nations later, like in Cambridge," Donnelly added.  

McGarry said that anyone from the public can review these documents on the city's website. She adds that the project is 'environmentally sound' and that it will have a positive economic impact on the region.

"The process from here forward is that the heritage impact assessment and the traffic impact assessment studies will be coming forward to a future council meeting and delegations to that meeting will be welcomed at that time."