The Carlington Summit
by Thomasina Larkin and Mark Lavinskas.

Plans for a "big box" grocery store in their community got a unanimous thumbs-down from dozens of Carlington Residents October 8.

The three-hour meeting at the Alexander Community Centre, organized by city councillor Karin Howard, was held to debate the possibility of re-zoning the commercial lands at 1260 Merivale Road (Clyde/Merivale Lands). The change would add about two acres of residential land to the commercial lot, and see a strip of bordering parkland change hands from the city to the developer.

The additional property would allow the developer to expand the parking lot to 500, from 300 parking spaces, and create a landscaped buffer between the store and the neighbouring houses.

City of Ottawa planner Cheryl Brouillard gave the group an indication of its size, saying the grocery store would be about 9,000 square feet larger than the 73,000-square-foot Loblaws Superstore on Baseline Road, near Merivale. The maximum floor space permitted under the current zoning at this location is 205,000 sq. ft.

Current zoning allows: 205,000 sq. ft. building
Proposed "big box" store: 82,000 sq. ft.
Loblaws Superstore on Baseline: 73,000 sq. ft.

About 60 residents turned out to the meeting, and most were concerned about the impact the store would have on traffic in the area. "The development that's going in is a car-culture planning of the 50s," said resident Stephen Jones. "People will be coming from all over the region to shop. Everyone shops for the lowest dollar. It doesn't server our community."

Regional councillor Wendy Stewart agreed. "The big box grocery store in an urban area would encourage the use of the car," she said. "Regional policies are cycling, walking and transit. We're trying to encourage people to shop in their own community."

Land developer for Ashcroft Homes, David Choo, sees the grocery store as a beneficial commercial development. "It's our feeling that single-story structure affords more of a natural buffer than a 20-metre high building," said Choo. "As part of our development, we want to introduce a food store for the community."

According to Nancy Meloshe, a planning consultant for Ashcroft Homes, the municipality has made it clear that it's not interested in keeping and maintaining the strip of the park that is proposed for the zoning change.

Residents say they'd rather have parkland as a buffer between the commercial zone and Ashcroft's new Central Park housing development. "How would eliminating (the park) accommodate us?" an audience member asked.

The developer says he'd prefer to see the parkland owned and maintained by the City of Ottawa. But he explained that the city has no interest in the land. "We've said to the city that it's difficult to see us maintaining what was a park before private ownership, and having public use. Because of liability issues, you can't do that," said Choo.

One Ashcroft homebuyer who paid a premium to locate her new hose next to the parkland accused the developer of misrepresenting the facts. She believed her new home would border green space or parkland. With this proposed retail store plan, her home would border a landscaped berm surrounding the store.

I'm very upset because we paid extra for the park area and when we customized our house we made the big window at the back so we can look out," said Soi Nim.

Some of those in attendance said the community already has more than enough grocery stores. Carolyn Hannan, a resident of 41 years, was one of them. "I would like to see it all green space. Period," she said.

The residents voted unanimously against the proposed commercial re-zoning plan and against any food retailer at the site. They also opposed the city's plan to transfer ownership of the short strip of parkland to a developer.

Community members will have another chance to express their views on the issue when the city's planning committee meets in December.