Saturday, April 08, 2006

Carp Landfill Plans Leave Developers in Kanata With Sour Taste

Something's rotten in Kanata these days, and it sure as heck 'aint the Senators.

Pierre Bernier, owner and CEO of Metric Homes, has two reasons for his opposition to the proposed expansion to the Carp Road landfill site. The homebuilder who constructed the first Energy Star (a high energy efficiency rating) home in Canada has two developments within spitting distance of the west end's rising hump of trash, but also has another, more personal, rationale.

"I'm one of the builders who operates in the area," says Mr. Bernier, "but I'm also a resident. So I wear both hats here.

"During summer, just the smell alone was enough to convince many customers not to purchase here," he continues. "It's a visual eyesore. But the worst, in terms of first impressions, is the terrible smell you get most of the time when you exit the Queensway."

Mr. Bernier says his company has been losing sales ever since the city and Waste Management, the company that operates the site, announced their proposed continuation and expansion of the landfill's activities for the next 25 years. Mr. Bernier says most people in the area, including himself, were led to believe the dump would close (after its time limit expired) in a few years.

The company has two developments – Arbourbrook Estates and Timbermere – in the immediate area.

"The public impression was that the landfill site was coming close to its end," says Mr. Bernier, who says thus far he hasn't considered lowering prices on any of his developments. "And as a result, some of our purchasers proceeded in making an acquisition on that basis, without really asking the question directly to anybody, but just from the general perception.

"Now that they're talking about going at it for another 25, and if they do 25 they'll likely do 50 and keep it going forever, and there are huge concerns."

Last week, about 2,000 people crammed themselves into a Stittsville school gym for a public meeting with Waste Management rep Michael Walters and Goulburn Coun. Janet Stavinga. Most attendees apparently held hopes of shouting the project down, but to no avail – both the city and Waste Management made plain their intentions of going ahead.

The good news is that there are no plans to truck Toronto trash to the Carp Road site, as the overwhelming majority of that city's garbage is shipped to Michigan, says Waste Management. But Michigan has recently considered banning Canadian garbage from its borders, leaving the future disposal of Toronto's trash in a lurch.

John Herbert, president of the Ottawa-Carleton Homebuilders Association, says area developers and residents shouldn't be surprised by the move, which to him makes practical sense.

"As an industry, we look at it as people are generating garbage and it's not going to go away," he says, pointing to a new city initiative to employ a plasma vaporization unit at their Trail Road facility. "We can't just bury our heads in the sand and say 'We don't want landfills', because we're just going to keep generating garbage."

While Mr. Herbert agrees the continuation of the dump will most likely have negative effects on homebuilders in the area, both developers and their customers have to realize the trash they generate has to go somewhere – however unpleasant that thought may be.

Mr. Bernier, for his part, says he's got few environmental concerns – the 10 foot-thick membrane expected to be installed around the trash heap, for instance, will most likely keep leaching to a minimum – but the sight and the smell, he explains, are still enough to keep potential homebuyers sitting on their hands.

"We have missed being able to make sales from potential purchasers that couldn't accept this," he explains. But, since the public meeting last week, Mr. Bernier says he's realized the landfill isn't something he can fight.

"There's no way anybody will be able to stop the expansion. It's a fact of life," he says.

"But the smell and the eyesight of garbage flying around all over the place, that has to be addressed. We can't be smelling garbage like that every time we come home from a hard day's work."


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