Property developer vows to protect Pickering wetland after Amazon cancels warehouse plans

·2 min read
In a statement, Pickering Developments Inc. announced
In a statement, Pickering Developments Inc. announced

The land owner and property developer that planned to put an Amazon warehouse on a provincially significant wetland in Pickering has announced a "voluntary promise" not to alter or remove the wetland.

In a statement provided to CBC Toronto on Sunday, Pickering Developments Inc. announced "through a legally enforceable undertaking, not to interfere with, alter or remove the provincially significant wetland on its Pickering property."

The Ford government had ordered the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) to issue a permit to the developer on March 12 to build a warehouse on the Lower Duffins Creek wetland just south of Highway 401 near Pickering's border with Ajax.

This, despite the TRCA's stated position that they were doing so "under duress" and would not ordinarily grant this permit.

Last week, CBC News reported that Amazon Canada had been considering the wetland property as a potential location for a new fulfilment centre. On March 12, however, an official with Amazon Canada told CBC News that the company is no longer considering the site for a warehouse.

Pickering Developments Inc. said that Amazon Canada's announcement now means that no work will take place on the site.

"In light of a recent announcement that a new fulfilment centre will no longer be located on this property, this voluntary undertaking ensures that no work, legally authorized by that permit, will occur," Pickering Development Inc. said in its statement.

"Notwithstanding claims which suggest otherwise, Pickering Developments has always abided by, has never broken, has ensured that all steps it has taken have been in full compliance with and will continue to operate within the law."

A subsidiary of Pickering Developments Inc. had proposed to build the largest retail warehouse in Canada on this Pickering property. This view looks toward the southeast, with Squires Beach Road and Bayly Street in the background forming the boundary of the site.
A subsidiary of Pickering Developments Inc. had proposed to build the largest retail warehouse in Canada on this Pickering property. This view looks toward the southeast, with Squires Beach Road and Bayly Street in the background forming the boundary of the site. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

Previously, the Ford government had been pushing to approve the project. Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark issued a ministerial zoning order last fall to fast-track the project. In December, the Ford government reduced the power of local conservation authorities to block development on wetlands.

It also introduced legislation to retroactively rewrite provincial law to strengthen its case against environmental groups pursuing a lawsuit that aimed to halt the development.

Michael Schreiner, the leader of the Green Party of Ontario, issued a statement calling Pickering Developments Inc.'s announcement a "short-term victory."

"This is more good news for the people, organizations and First Nations working so hard to protect wetlands. And it's further evidence that Ontarians don't want their greenspaces ripped up and paved over," Schreiner said.

Schreiner also called for the Ford government to restore power to conservation authorities, remove the legislation introduced to rewrite provincial laws and to revoke the ministerial zoning order for the wetland site.