Blair Engaged lost court battle over Amazon warehouse, ordered to pay legal costs

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has determined that while the City of Cambridge breached its own procedural bylaw, it will also reject an application from a citizens’ committee to review the building of an Amazon Warehouse.

The citizens’ committee was Blair Engaged – who were seeking a judicial review of a decision made by the City of Cambridge to allow for a one million square foot warehouse/distribution center within the Blair Village Heritage Conservation District. Amazon has said the one-million-square-foot warehouse will create more than 1,000 jobs.

An Amazon warehouse under construction in the Village of Blair. (Colton Wiens/CTV News Kitchener)

Broccolini Real Estate Group Inc. is the real estate company building the new fulfillment center for Amazon in the village of Blair.

According to the court decision, under the Blair Village Heritage Conservation District plan, the area for the development was zoned to allow building warehouses. Broccolini also obtained a Minister’s Zoning Order, which was supported by the council, to have the land zoned to include a “distribution warehouse.”

The Council later voted to reject Broccolini’s application for approval but then reversed that decision a few months after.

Blair Engaged sought public interest standing on grounds of bad faith, illegality, and lack of procedural fairness. It took the position that the council failed to give notice that it would consider an application in violation of its own procedural bylaws.

Broccolini resulted in buildings having been demolished, and construction was more than 50 percent complete by February. It said construction is expected to be completed by early next year.

A sign in the village of Blair following the approval of an MZO for a warehouse development. (Colton Wiens/CTV KItchener) (Aug. 29, 2021)

In the decision, the three judges involved in ruling Cambridge acknowledged that the process may not have been “perfect,” but said it was fair and that prior consultation was completed. It said the city did not owe Blair Engaged a duty of procedural fairness in making the decision.

The ruling council found that it had breached its procedural bylaw by failing to give adequate notice of the motion to consider the matter, but it did not act in bad faith, so the review declined.

As a result, because the city breached its own bylaw, no costs for the procedures will be awarded to the city. However, Blair Engaged owes $20,000 to Broccolini for the cost of going to court.

Near the end of Old Mill Road in the Village of Blair, crews are hard at work building this Amazon fulfillment warehouse.

And after a ruling from the superior court of Ontario, the construction was cleared to continue.

The decision has left some people unhappy, including a couple that moved onto Old Mill Road about a year and a half ago who said they felt like their hands were tied.

“It’s a monstrosity, it doesn’t belong in the historic village of Blair,” Lauraine Schooley, a resident of Blair said.

Adding: “I would like to see them do something more, but I’m just getting the feeling that it’s already been decided and they’re not going to back down on it.”

Meanwhile, her husband shares a similar sentiment about the project.

“There’s not supposed to be any trucks going up and down this road. It’s posted. We’re already seeing a huge increase in the number of trucks. We’re seeing a lot more traffic out here on Blair Road,” Bob Schooley said.

The City of Cambridge, on the other hand, indicated construction projects such as this one sent a strong message of economic growth.

“The warehouse distribution center represents a major economic boost for Cambridge, sending a strong signal that Cambridge is a place to grow, innovate and do business,” an email from the City of Cambridge said.

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