IKEA move in jeopardy? Getting all the paper work done is going to be a challenge. Is the province cooperating?

October 3, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  It is going to be a scramble to get all the paper work done in time for IKEA to meet some deadlines that are out there.

The first hard date is October 21st when the Development and Infrastructure Committee will go over a report that covers details that have to be approved at that Committee level.  It is vital that the report staff produces be approved at that Committee meeting.

Red line at the op is the railway line – that isn’t going to move.  Dark line on the right is the creek that has to be dealt with and Conservation Halton isn’t making that easy.  Lot of room for the interchange upgrades that are going to be needed to handle the volume of traffic.

The schedule is now so tight that council members will move from meeting as a Standing Committee on the evening of the 21st into meeting as a city council to pass the zoning by-law change IKEA needs to build its new office/retail operation on the site.

There is a mandatory 20 day comment period when a change is made in a zoning by-law.

While everyone waits out that 20 day period, documents from Conservation Halton have to be signed.  Conservation is involved because there is a creek running along the east side of the property.

But that isn’t the only issue that has to be resolved and, longer term,  it isn’t the toughest one.  The intersection at Walkers Line is reaching capacity.  Changing the configuration of an intersection like Walkers Line is no small matter.

Currently located on Plains Road in Aldershot IKEA has wanted to move for some time and committed to staying in Burlington – why not this is a great market and IKEA is a top tourist draw for the city. Then the complications set in and the project is getting close to needing life support.

IKEA has been toiling away since before March of 2011 on plans to move their operation from Aldershot to a piece of land on the North Service Road just west of Walkers Line where there are multiple problems that someone didn’t see coming their way.

IKEA made a corporate decision to move and put together an agreement with Hopewell, the company that owns the land on the North Service Road.

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see immediately that the North Service Road could not handle the traffic that would be created with an IKEA on the Hopewell property.

Widening the North Service Road would be necessary but there were problems there because North Service is cheek by jowl with the QEW which itself is going to be widened in the not too distant future.

A walk along North Service between Guelph Line and Walkers Line suggests that property could be bought to widen the road but there is at least one large structure that is going to have a road very close to it when widening takes place..

Add to that the Creek that winds its way down the east side of the property and dips under the QEW and is governed by Conservation Halton rules and you get a sense of what IKEA is up against.

Did the planners that IKEA engaged not do their homework?  Did they not make themselves aware of all the problems they would incur?  When they first talked to Burlington’s planners did the Planning department not brief them?

The IKEA development is the first initiative seen in what the city calls one of its prime development areas.  This one is called the Prosperity Corridor and covers both sides of the QEW from Appleby on the east to Brant on the west with the focus at this point on the Guelph Line – Walkers Line stretch.

City hall is realizing that a change made to Walkers Line and the QEW ripples through to the other major intersections.  City hall has also learned that you just don’t come along with a development application and expect the province to take a serious interest in what you want to do.

The province takes a much longer term approach and the next time the Burlington intersections along the QEW come up for a hard close look with a cheque book in their hand is 2016 – and that’s when they begin looking at what might be needed.

IKEA wants to be OPEN in its new location the spring of 2015 with shovels in the ground before the end of this year if they can get the paper work out of the way.

North Service Road looking west: There is room to widen the road; not sure how Leon’s will feel about giving up some frontage so people can get to IKEA.

Report providing information regarding 3455 North Service Road (IKEA Properties Limited) (PB-82-13) (Referred to the October 21, 2013 Development & Infrastructure meeting)

 The city has growth plans that cannot be met without significant development in the Prosperity Corridor

The Walkers Line /QEW upgrades are critical

Land west of Walkers Line has been purchased for the development of 300,000 sq/ft of industrial office space.  It is not clear at this point if this is ‘new development’ and what stage it is at.

IKEA alone accounts for half of the new Industrial Commercial construction forecast for 2013 – thus if the deal in the works now doesn’t close before the end of the year – there  goes the forecast and up go residential taxes – unless the finance people raid some of those fat reserve funds the city has tucked way.

One of the city’s top tourist destinations is going to move to the property on the left.  Widening this road to three lanes isn’t going to handle the traffic – and left hand turns are going to be terrible.  Lots of work to be done on this file – and the clock is ticking.

Making the North Service Road work as a development site is not going to be easy and the city knows now that it needs partners from the private sector as well as more from the Region and the province.

Problem is the province doesn’t think the city needs the kind of help it is talking about.

The agreements that are being readied for signature have IKEA paying all the short term costs – these will get spelled out in the report that wasn’t tabled last night.

The city and the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) will pay all the costs for the long term – which refers to the cost of reconfiguring Walkers Line and the North Service Road.

This would seem like one of those situations where Burlington General Manager Scott Stewart needs to get all the players in the same room at the same time and give them a solid dose of his “tough love”.  He once took on a group of soccer Moms and if a deal can be worked out with that crowd, IKEA should be a cake walk.

But it doesn’t look like that today – does it?

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