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'I don't know where I'll go:' Blair farm owner thinks of leaving because of giant warehouse

The facility will have 100 trucks per day coming in and out of the area of Dickie Settlement Road and Old Mill Road
massive warehouse blair
A proposed warehouse development next to Highway 401 in Cambridge.

Big changes are likely coming to the historic village of Blair in Cambridge, to the tune of a 1 million square foot warehouse.

For most of Cambridge and Blair, the change will not be largely noticable. For those living on a quiet, dead-end street on a farm, however, life as its been for generations is about to dramatically shift.

"We live on a dead-end road that's a kilometre from main street Preston. It couldn't be any better, we get three, four cars down the road throughout the day and that's it," said Gord Kinzie, a farm owner right across from where the massive warehouse would be set up. 

"So, yeah, we've had life better than probably it should have been," said Kinzie. He paused. "But, uh, I guess it's gonna change."

Kinzie's family farm has been in his family for generations, but he's considering moving away before the warehouse is built. The noise and increased traffic would completely transform the once quiet road.

He, along with all other residents of Blair, were not consulted about the most recent Minister's Zoning Order (MZO) to the area. The area was previously zoned for this type of building use in 2015, which is when public consultation was done, according to staff. 

"There was a lot of public consultation initially, when the city goes through its official plan policies, and when the land was rezoned to allow it to be used as employment land," said Hardy Bromberg, deputy city manager of community development for the City of Cambridge. 

The property owner is looking at making some detailed changes that would allow them to build one giant warehouse as opposed to several smaller buildings of the same type. This led to an ask of Cambridge council Tuesday night to support the application to the province to implement those changes, using an MZO. Studies on environmental, traffic and heritage impact will still have to take place. 

These changes got to skip past public consultation thanks to the nature of the MZO, something that Cambridge Ward 1 Councillor Donna Reid normally doesn't support.

"I guess I could say that it's not something I particularly find that I would support, so I was kind of surprised that I did find this one agreeable," said Reid, who supported the motion Tuesday night. The goal of the project is to help restart the local economy. 

"This is one case where a Minister's Zoning Order actually works in our favour as a city. They're going to employ, at the very least 700 people, at their peak times 1,400 people, and that's very good for us."

Another resident said word has gotten around fast, and some have voiced concerns around increased traffic and preserving the village's heritage status. 

"Yeah, we haven't heard anything from the council, or from the city, there's been no communication out to the village that I'm aware of at this point," said Paul McQuiggen. 

"Blair's always been a very unique area in the region. We don't even have street lights to keep that historic feel, so I'm curious how they're going to do the lighting in such a large area, how it's going to effect our night and basically light pollution, and as well as the noise. Are they going to be constructing berms around this facility to keep the noise down? So, there's a lot of questions, obviously, that would need to be answered going forward."

While many questions remain, it seems the time has passed for input on whether or not the warehouse gets built, though locals' input does still matter.

"When we hear from people, and they have concerns, then we'd certainly talk to the company and say, 'You know what, how can we deal with this?' In most cases, companies are very appreciative, and they want to be good neighbours, and they would certainly do what they could, and the city would do whatever they could to deal with the concerns neighbours might have," said Councillor Reid.

"I really want to hear from people if they have concerns, so that we can address them. I know it's after the fact, but that's the way it works with a Minister's Zoning Order, and it doesn't mean we're not interested. We want to hear from them."

The proposed warehouse project is set to begin construction as early as summer 2021, with an unnamed company investing $160 million into the project bordering Dickie Settlement Road and Old Mill Road. 

Broccolini is the real estate developing company, which had previous involvement in an Amazon fulfilment centre being built near Ottawa.

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