I wanted to take the time to contribute a little perspective to the debate surrounding the Big Box store that came before City Council last night.
Contrary to some information that has been making the rounds – Council did not vote to approve the Big Box development last night. That decision was made in 2007 and confirmed again this summer by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, which granted the Coco developers an environmental permit to proceed with the development.
At this point Council has little say in how that private property—the empty, abandoned concrete parking lots at the Windsor Raceway on the corner of Matchette and Sprucewood—will be developed.
What Council could do—and did do last night—was add green space and remove the most serious threat to the viability of Ojibway.
Council voted on two things last night:
(1) Council voted YES to accept 10 acres of land—the size of 8 football fields–from Coco that will be added to the Ojibway ecosystem as permanent protected natural habitat and serve as a green buffer between the park and the stores.
(2) Council voted unanimously YES to begin the process leading towards the closing of Matchette Road thereby making the two sides of the Ojibway Prairie complex whole and protecting Ojibway from the real danger, which is traffic.
Last night at Council we heard testimony from a local biologist named Russ who has dedicated his life to the protection of Ojibway. His passion for Ojibway is matched by over a decade of experience in the study, conservation and care for natural habitat in Windsor-Essex.
He made the point that the location of the Big Box store on the abandoned parking lot of Windsor Raceway—while not ideal nor desirable—is not a direct threat to Ojibway as the parking lot lands have little environmental value and are far enough away from the natural habitat.
Russ testified that instead the real threat is traffic barreling down Matchette and that the dream solution—from an environmental standpoint—would be to stop traffic by closing a portion of Matchette and thereby making Ojibway whole.
Council listened and Council acted.
As a result of last night’s vote we have added an additional 10 acres of permanent green space to Ojibway and we have started on the path to close Matchette and make Ojibway whole.
It is about a pragmatic way forward that balances real environmental and economic concerns.
I hope this provides you with a clearer understanding of my Council vote last night.