Committee of the Whole okays next steps towards yet another Ottawa Street gas bar

By Jill McCubbin

On Sept 8, Mississippi Mills Committee of the Whole voted 7 to 4 in a recorded vote to accept a site-specific Community Official Plan Amendment and a Zoning Amendment that moves Council a step closer to approving a new gas bar on Ottawa Street, in the parking lot in front of the Rexall.

Councillors who voted to approve the amendments to allow the gas bar did so for these reasons:

  • Our Official Plan has to be amended to incorporate the new source/drinking water protection policies of the Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection Plan anyway, so we can approve a site specific amendment for this gas bar now. (Under the new Plan a third gas bar on Ottawa Street does not pose a risk to the nearby well #7 or our drinking water.)
  • The Ontario Planning Act allows zoning amendments to allow the new gas bar
  • Threat of being taken to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) by the Toronto-based gas bar developers because the Town “doesn’t have a legal/planning/environmental leg to stand on” (see above two points)
  • A belief that three gas stations in one area still fit “smart planning” and our “economic development” vision
  • A review of the gas bar proposal at the site plan stage could possibly halt the new gas bar – if the study looking at traffic flow in and about the parking lot of the Rexall shows no satisfactory solutions

Councillors who voted against the amendments and against the gas bar gave these reasons:

  • Mississippi Mills Council has a “Standard of Care” duty to safeguard the source water / drinking water of Almonte. We are not willing to accept the latest legislation and consultants reports as gospel and to gamble the town’s water.
  • The Town’s existing Official Plan policies and Zoning bylaw don’t allow for a new gas bar in this zone (understood as “good planning practice” in the past). Keeping status quo would allow Council to act in the Town’s best interests and residents’ wishes to stop a third gas bar along the Ottawa St. commercial zone.
  • Threat of being taken to the OMB by the developers is a threat we’ll risk.
  • If we make allowances for a third gas bar, will we make allowances for a fourth? a fifth? And then, when one or more gas stations fail, the community is left with hazardous / harder to re-develop, possibly unsellable real estate on Ottawa Street. Also, “economic development” along Ottawa St. does not equal unnecessary gas bars
  • The developer will rejig the site plan and the traffic flow plan until it’s “made to work” / satisfactory. A site plan review may slow the development of the gas bar, but is unlikely to stop it

A bit more about Mississippi Mills source water protection:

  • In December 2011 Zoning By-law no.11-83 and the Mississippi Mills Wellhead Protection Area Study were the ultimate source water protection documents. This plan/study did not allow for new gas bars in the 2-year catchment zone of the wells on Patterson Street. This is the zone where the proposed gas bar would locate.
  • January 1, 2015, the Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection Plan came into affect and became the provincial legislation on source water protection. Under this plan a new gas bar is allowed in this zone.
  • In 2019 (perhaps?) will there be new legislated water protection standards that revert to not allowing gas bars in our well catchment area? We don’t know.
  • And in all cases, at all times: consultants etc. continue to affirm new policies and new technology as enough to mitigate risks to drinking water… yet history shows sometimes pipelines do crack or technology errors do occur and water does get contaminated, even under the best intentions.

The 2015 Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection Plan must be incorporated into the Mississippi Mills Official Plan – it is required legislation – and the science behind the plan may improve our protection policies. Meanwhile, making a site-specific amendment to our Official Plan in order to allow one more gas bar is not the same as making required OP amendments (still to be done by the Municipality). Also, choosing to make sensible decisions that go further than provincial legislation in order to safeguard our water resources is a good thing.

On Sept. 8, Committee of the Whole voted to approve the amendments to allow the gas bar. To read the report and the amendments that were approved, go to this link, page 18 – http://www.mississippimills.ca/uploads/12/Doc_635768741212235681.pdf. On September 22, Council holds the final vote on these amendments (and Council’s vote usually follows the vote at Committee of the Whole). If you’d like to try to change this outcome, please email and call your councillors.

Those who voted in favour of the amendments that allow the proposed new gas bar: John Edwards, Denzil Ferguson, Christa Lowry, Paul Watters, Bernard Cameron, Duncan Abbott, Alex Gillis

Those who voted against: Jane Torrance, Shaun McLaughlin, Val Wilkinson and Jill McCubbin