Amazon will not put the largest retail warehouse in Canada on the site of a protected wetland in Pickering, CBC News has learned.
An official with Amazon Canada said Friday that the company is no longer considering the Duffins Creek wetland property for its new fulfilment centre, a project that could be as large as four million square feet of warehouse space.
The news comes two days after an in-depth report by CBC News on the warehouse proposal for the wetland, located just off Highway 401, east of Brock Road.
Friday is the deadline for the Toronto Region Conservation Authority to grant permission to the property owner, the Triple Group of Companies, to begin destroying the wetland.
It is not yet clear how Amazon’s withdrawal from the proposal will affect the developer’s plans to build on the wetland, which is designated as provincially significant.
The Amazon official said the company is in exploratory conversations with multiple other locations for its expansion and never signed a lease commitment for the Pickering property.
The Ford government granted a special ministerial zoning order in October to allow construction on the Pickering wetland to try to fast-track the project, despite its protected status. The request for the ministerial zoning order came from the landowner and developer, not from Amazon.
Asked by CBC News for comment, the head of communications for Amazon Canada operations, Dave Bauer, sent a statement by email. “We were always considering multiple sites for our expansion and we take environmental issues very seriously,” Bauer said.
CBC News sources say that a different developer is also in contention for the Amazon warehouse on a golf course property in Ajax, less than one kilometre away from the wetland.
That proposal is for a 2.7 million-square foot distribution centre on a site, recently rezoned to allow a warehouse. However the owner of the Pickering wetland has launched a legal appeal of that rezoning, delaying development from going ahead.
The Ajax developer asked the government a month ago for a ministerial zoning order to extricate the land from the appeal, but that has not been granted.
To help the Pickering developer, the Ford government issued an MZO two days after it was requested, reduced the power of conservation authorities to block development, introduced a bill to retroactively remove a law that prohibits construction on a protected wetland, and ordered the TRCA to issue a development permit for the site by Friday.