Thursday, April 4, 2013

Don't Pave Ojibway, Save Ojibway!

I've mentioned this development in the past [here] but again lately, the Coco Group is in the media wanting to move forward with a big-box development on the former Windsor Raceway land.

The Windsor Star article link below has a great video, as well as comments for and against the development. One comment by Mr Valente (a developer himself) made a point something along the lines of: The integrity of an ecosystem shouldnt be left up to the goodwill of private landowners, and the government should be buying land back instead of asking people not to develop land.  ... I must say I agree with him. If a company buys land and develops it or if a farmer cuts a woodlot, we grumble, ... but where is Ontario's Ministry of the Environment on this? The government needs to step up and buy out this land at a fair market value and encourage these developers to develop brownfield sites to revitalize the city's core.

 Where has all the Tallgrass Prarie Habitat gone?

"Tallgrass was once found throughout the east-central U.S. and in Southern Ontario and Manitoba. It covered an estimated 90 million hectares - about the size of British Columbia. Now only 1.5 million hectares (about 1%) remains - about the size of half of Vancouver Island.

In Southern Ontario, tallgrass once covered approximately 1000 km2 - less than 3% remains!

Most tallgrass communities have been lost over the past 200 years due to human use of the land for agriculture and urbanization." Source:

This is a map of where the dozer's and pavers will make a giant parking lot (red rectangle). Traffic on Matchette will be up to 17,000 cars per day?

More information:

Check today's video and reader comments (perhaps comment yourself) here:

Big-box retail development plan near Ojibway draws fire (with video)

A developer is hoping to have found a more acceptable way to win approval for a long-delayed but controversial big-box retail development on lands abutting the environmentally sensitive Ojibway Prairie Complex.
Coco Paving Inc. has submitted a proposal under a rarely used clause of Ontario’s Endangered Species Act that allows development in protected areas subject to the proponent providing “benefits that exceed the adverse effects” on several listed plant and snake species.
“It’s a win-win — good for the environment and good for the economy,” said company spokesman Anthony Rossi. The proposal was posted on March 7 on the province’s Environmental Registry, which provides details and offers opportunity for the public to comment and ask questions until April 8.
One of the biggest changes, said Rossi, is Coco’s willingness to carve about 10 acres from its 47-acre holdings east of recently-closed Windsor Raceway and establish a “restoration area” and natural buffer between the development, at the corner of Matchette Road and Sprucewood Avenue, and Ojibway park.
But the proposal hasn’t found much favour from activist Nancy Pancheshan and her Save Ojibway group.
“The problem with this application is that many of the endangerered species are not included … and (the plan) is incapable of offsetting the disturbances it will create,” said Pancheshan, who has been fighting the developer’s plans since they were approved by city council in 2007.
She said part of the development will lie just metres away from sensitive tall-grass prairie lands, and the estimated 18,000 additional vehicles per day along Matchette Road, to be more than doubled in width from two lanes to four lanes with a median, will greatly increase snake mortality.
“This will just cause future blight in the city and compromise our remaining environmental habitat,” said Pancheshan.
Nancy Pancheshan looks out at the property near the former Windsor Raceway site where a proposed development is planned.  Pancheshan has environmental concerns with the wildlife in the area. (JASON KRYK/The Windsor Star)
Nancy Pancheshan looks out at the property near the former Windsor Raceway site where a proposed development is planned. Pancheshan has environmental concerns with the wildlife in the area. (JASON KRYK/The Windsor Star)
Pancheshan appealed the original plan to the Ontario Municipal Board and has spent about $20,000 so far (raised mainly through public donations) enlisting the help of independent experts — a biologist, herbologist and hydro geologist — to dispute the company’s own reports.
It wasn’t until Pancheshan’s efforts that a number of rare and endangered species were identified on the lands targeted for development. An OMB hearing was indefinitely adjourned in August 2011 after the company was instructed to take a deeper look at the native species on its lands.
Rossi said Coco’s latest proposal represents “a significant accommodation,” one that will see plants like the dense blazing star and willowleaf aster dug up and replanted, as well the homes of Butler’s gartersnake and eastern foxsnake relocated. The 10 acres to be restored to prairie habitat, which includes an existing horse training track, “will eventually be conveyed (to the city or province) for park purposes,” said Rossi.
While still wanting to see the details, Ward 1 Drew Dilkens said if the developer is improving on a plan he and a majority of council already approved, then: “Bravo, Coco.” Dilkens said “the demand of the market is going to drive the development,” and that it’s “a reflection on how people like to shop.”
Ward 4 Coun Alan Halberstadt, however, said he’d like to see whether council might reconsider its original vote, particularly in light of the additional information Pancheshan and her group uncovered during the OMB appeal process.
Environmental issues aside, a big-box retail development on the outskirts of the city “would be another blow to the downtown and the core area,” he said. Halberstadt is co-chair of the Windsor Essex County Environment Committee, and he said Pancheshan will be addressing the group at its next meeting on April 4, just days before the Environmental Registry public input deadline.
WECEC is already warning on its website that the Coco proposal “goes against our city’s efforts to revitalise.” It also provides a “sample comment” letter to the province which begins with a denunciation of the developer’s plan. or on Twitter @SchmidtCity
Nancy Pancheshan looks out at the property near the former Windsor Raceway site where a proposed development is planned.  Pancheshan has environmental concerns with the wildlife in the area. (JASON KRYK/The Windsor Star)
Nancy Pancheshan looks out at the property near the former Windsor Raceway site where a proposed development is planned. Pancheshan has environmental concerns with the wildlife in the area. (JASON KRYK/The Windsor Star)


  1. The provincial government may have a say in some cases, but sometimes it is up to the municipal government. Here in Chatham-Kent we have has massive losses of woodlots (and other trees) by a few landowners who have no regard for wildlife and the natural environment. You may have heard that there is a proposal to create a bylaw for clear-cutting here and it has caused quite a stir. Problem is that several municipal councillors and possibly the mayor have no clue about wildlife and the natural world, hence are hesitant to support. Quite frankly, it is hilarious with some of the comments they have made!
    In our case, the MNR was contacted and they said it is a municipal problem! It may be, but for some of us who appreciate the importance of natural areas and wildlife, political bodies do not always make a good decision. The almighty dollar usually takes precedence. I am off on a bit of a tangent, but something I had to say!

  2. Blake, thanks for the response. I think we would agree that hoping for the goodwill of private landowners is not working. Hoping that a city or county government are going to make environmentally responsible and decisions are not going to work, they're corporations after all, and they are trying to increase their tax revenues with developments. They don't have any reason to hire biologists or ecologists to make decisions.

    So, hoping the goodwill of private landowners doesn't work, city and county governments have a conflict of interest in preserving ecologically sensitive land when they are trying to maximize their tax base. So the next government body is the province. They have the resources, the knowledge talent and the funds needed to look at a region as a whole and protect what needs to be protected.

    The only way some of the ecologically sensitive land remaining can be preserved is with provincial support, perhaps led by the ministry of natural resources, to buy back some land from private owners so the people own that land collectively.

    In the case above, it would be nice of Coco Paving could sell their land back to the province at a fair market price, and perhaps build this Best Buy & Dollar Store plaza with 3200 parking spaces somewhere else. Perhaps one of the many brownfields or vacant buildings could be rejuvenated with this economic investment.



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