Site for proposed big box centre.

Files: The site of a proposed big box centre at the intersection of Sprucewood Ave. and Matchette Rd. near the former Windsor Raceway property. (Windsor Star files)

Roads around a proposed shopping centre near Ojibway Park will be able to handle increased traffic — with the addition of traffic lights, new turning lanes and a roundabout — a traffic expert hired by the developer testified Tuesday during an Ontario Municipal Board hearing at Windsor City Hall.

Claudio Covelli of Dillon Consulting has completed several traffic studies since 2009 on all roads near the planned big-box development at the corner of Matchette Road and Sprucewood Avenue, where the Coco Group wants to create a 37-acre commercial centre.

Traffic at the intersection can already back up for a kilometre on southbound Matchette during the afternoon rush hour, because of the four-way stop sign at Matchette and Sprucewood. Covelli said, at that peak traffic times, 120 to 180 drivers each hour will use an abandoned road on the grounds of the former Windsor Raceway as a short cut.

“This intersection would fail and some mitigation needs to happen with or without this development,” Covelli said, during the second day of an OMB hearing expected to last two weeks.

The Coco Group has already agreed to install a roundabout at the intersection, which Covelli believes will improve traffic flow — even with the new big-box centre in place.

New stop lights with turning lanes will also be needed on both Matchette and Sprucewood — currently single-lane roads — at entrance points for the proposed 450,000-square-foot shopping centre, he said.

“With this access arrangement, we are quite comfortable how this will operate,” Covelli said.

A citizens’ group known as Save Ojibway has been fighting since 2007 to stop the big-box development, fearing an environmental impact on protected Ojibway Park lands located next door and across the street from the Coco site.

the lawyer for Save Ojibway group

Lawyer for Save Ojibway group, Eric Gillespie at the Ontario Municipal Board hearing on August 25, 2015. (Dave Battagello/The Windsor Star)

The group’s lawyer, Eric Gillespie, took issue with the traffic conclusions made by Covelli, by detailing how they differ significantly from a traffic expert he will call to testify later in the hearing.

Concerned citizen Anna-Lynn Meloche questioned Covelli on the impact of increased traffic for wildlife crossing the roads, including numerous deer in the area.

“We haven’t addressed animal crossings on the roadway, but it will be designed appropriately,” he said. “I have no information on the impact on wildlife.”

Meloche said that with up to 12,000 people a night attending the former Windsor Raceway in its prime — when “traffic was similar to Devonshire Mall at Christmas” — nearby residents felt overwhelmed.

She asked if there would be a similar impact caused by the shopping centre.

“Based on this traffic study, the roads can handle what we are projecting. The mitigation we are recommending I’m confident can handle the traffic.”

Another witness called the Coco Group lawyers for was Dr. Amir Iravani, an air quality expert also from Dillon Consulting.

Through air impact studies, he concluded vehicle emissions within the centre of the mall parking area would be “insignificant” either on an hourly basis or over a 24-hour period.

A worst-case scenario would see less than four per cent additional vehicle emissions created by the commercial centre, Iravani said.

The OMB hearing continues Wednesday in city council chambers at 10 a.m.

Source (with video): The Windsor Star