An overflowing Shire Hall was the scene Thursday as a large audience gathered for a Special Planning Public Meeting regarding zoning by-law amendment application by Picton Terminals.
The application was explained to members of the audience and council in a presentation delivered by Michael Keene of FoTenn Consulting.
According to Keene, this would permit additional uses such as transshipment and tour boat/cruise ship docking.
The purpose of the amendment is to recognize the legal, non-conforming transshipment use and expand the list of permitted uses for the site, for example, the docking of Great Lakes cruise ships.
In 2018, the Ontario Superior Court ruled the transshipment use was legal-nonconforming and ordered Picton Terminals to remove equipment and stockpiles from areas of their operation which were agriculturally zoned.
In a joint press release issued earlier in the day, the advocacy group Save Picton Bay, an organization at odds with Picton Terminals operation and cognizant of Ministry of Natural Resources spill violations announced they had reached an agreement in concert with the deep port operation and the municipality to abandon appeal of the superior court decision with the decrees that the port wouldn’t accept shipments of waste or liquid fertilizer.
A report with staff disposition on the application is expected to be sent to Council some time in the coming months.
The by-law amendment in question would allow PT to use the entirety of the property as they see fit with regards to transshipment and for tour boat docking and the meeting was a simple public input meeting as part of the planning process.
According to FoTenn, the products prepared and loaded at the facility include dry bulk cargo such as road salt, aggregates, farming products, steel products, biomass, recycled scrap steel, wine barrels and other various bulk products.
In the past, concerns have been raised by local citizens regarding salt runoff leeching into Picton Bay.
With the amendment, all bulk storage will be uncovered, except for salt.This salt storage area will be recessed below grade so that a cover can be constructed over the top to shelter the salt from rain and prevent runoff from entering Picton Bay, according to a report from the County’s Planning Department.
That same report cited two floating docks are also proposed, both being 36.5 metres in length. The first will be to accommodate cruise ships with passenger capacities of about 450 people. The second will be used by tug-boats to haul barges to and from the PT site.
Transport Canada has already approved the site to accept cruise ships and passengers.
Over 60 deputations were made to council regarding this topic. Though several deputations were in support of Picton Terminals application, the majority were in opposition.
Terri Covern, Picton resident, spoke against PT’s application, citing both environmental and economical pitfalls of the plan.
“Unless I’m wrong, my tax dollars are helping to enable an industrial operation that is polluting our harbour, threatening our drinking water source and compromising the very character of this unique environment we share and are entrusted to protect for future generations,” said Covern.
“The barge spill in March 2017 cost this County almost $6000,000, only $394,000 of which was compensated by the SOPF, requiring the County, in other words our tax dollars, to cover the balance of over $200,000,” she iterated.
Covern contrasted this spending with the considerable amount spent by local concerned citizens group Save Picton Bay to safeguard the environment around Picton Bay.
“The members of SPB have spent over $100,000 of their own and fundraised money towards safeguarding the harbour against further violations of its habitat and water resources,” Covern said, adding that she was not a member of the local group.
“It is my understanding, that according to public record, Picton Terminals pays less than $17,000 in taxes annually,” she said, “And, PT employs only a limited number of County residents. It seems to me, this is a very risky business operation for this community-financially and environmentally.”
Damon Wells, long time resident of the County and Napanee, supported PT’s rezoning application, citing shipping as being part of a bygone era of abundance in the County.
“My paternal great-grandfather farmed and owned a schooner during the Barley Days. That ship borne trade was a boone to the County in its day and contributed greatly to the local economy,” stated Wells.
“Redevelopment of the PT property is a timely alignment with what made the County’s economy flourish in the past-shipping, farming and tourism,” said Wells, “But, also, it helps support Eastern Ontario Municipalities, their infrastructure maintenance and, in the end, the local taxpayer.”
Wells stated that, having been responsible for the roads and public works management of an unnamed, large Eastern Municipality for 17 years, having the bulk materials available at PT so close by is significant.
Professor Gordon Anderson, an economist who taught at the University of Toronto, presented a unique perspective in opposition to PT’s application.
“I’m sure that what we’re seeing here is an ecological disaster waiting to happen. But, I don’t want to speak to that. I want to speak to the economic developments you see before you. I really don’t think this type of development is a good idea for the county,” he stated.
Anderson argued the employment produced by this project will fall short of providing a sizeable amount of new jobs.
“The County does not need capital intensive investments. It needs labour intensive investments. There are not many direct jobs to be involved. Most of the jobs they talk about are what we call secondaries, that is to say, if you foster some tourism, there will be some tourism employment,” said Anderson. “What you need in the County are jobs that work through the winter, which you don’t have at the moment or, other types of investment, such as a technical college.”
Councillor John Hirsch also spoke, expressing varied concerns and noting PT’s known disregard for environmental regulations.
“It seems to me that the poor track record that Picton Terminals has in protecting the environment gives me serious reason to seek restrictions on the type of operations allowed and the type of materials that can be trans-shipped into port,” said Hirsch.
“We’re all familiar with the large amount of salt run-off and its effects on the Bay, as well as the oil spill by PT’s contracted barge which caused an expensive shut-down of the Picton water supply,” said Hirsch. “Most people are less familiar with the long history of officers’ orders from the Ministry of Environment to fix situations to put plans in place to prevent pollution and Picton Terminal’s aggressive objections to these orders.”
A report that includes public input as well as a peer review will return to council, once a peer review is completed.