Peer review highlights gaps in Picton Terminals’ proposal

An artist's rendition of cargo containers at the shoreline at Picton Terminals. (Picton Terminals website screen grab)

SARAH WILLIAMS

STAFF WRITER

A third party review of proposed plans at a Picton Bay deep water port operation says the proposition needs more review and clarity.

The feasibility of Picton Terminal’s (PT) proposed tour boat docking and transshipment operation has been put into question by an independent peer review conducted by IBI Consulting, a firm retained by the municipality. The review provides a cross-section analysis of both the site plan control (SPC) application and the zoning bylaw amendment application (ZBLA), the result of which illustrates gaps in communication and highlights the need for further study.

The peer review in question leads the reader through an analysis of the purpose of the applications and proposed development, an itemization of studies conducted thus far and submissions made by PT.

IBI’s concerns regarding the expanded transshipment use of the site include calling into question the regional benefit to such transshipment operations and its ability to align with the municipality’s Official Plan, as purported by the applicant.

“We have concerns with whether the proposed expansion of the transshipment use will truly implement the Official Plan vision and provide the regional benefit identified by the applicant for a multi-modal port benefiting the County and a wider region, as opposed to serving the needs of the individual business owner for storing material,” the report reads.

In their planning justification, prepared by Fotenn Consultants, the PT proposals are regarded as an improvement of historic uses of the former Bethlehem Steel Iron Ore transfer site that was built in the 1950’s.

“The overall intent of the proposed applications is to expand the existing, long-standing deep water port to support the existing transshipment use and support cruise ship docking at the site,” wrote Fotenn.

While acknowledging the previous use of this site, IBI expressed concern for the future implications of PT’s proposal, including “ongoing//permitted/possible future aggregate operations in addition to the transshipment use.”

Furthermore, IBI notes that aggregate extraction itself is not a historic use of the property.

The sinking of the barge the Pitts Carillon at Picton Terminals in March, 2017. (SOPF). (Dave Tugwood/For the Gazette)

“The potential overall intensity of extractive and industrial operations which could be permitted through existing and proposed use permissions, including machinery, equipment, large vehicles (including movement on/off and through the site), noise, and emissions, could be substantial and greater than that presented in the application,” wrote IBI. “This does not appear to be addressed in the justification of and proposed provisions in the ZBLA which seeks to maintain the Extractive Industrial permissions, despite confirming that no aggregate extraction was historically present nor is one proposed.”

IBI stated that the real question to be considered with regards to the ZBLA application was whether the expansion of use, including large amount of outdoor storage to almost the entire site, is appropriate.

“In our view, it is a proposed expansion that is substantial and which needs to be carefully considered and managed, particularly with respect to impacts on natural hazards and public health and safety,” they wrote.

With regards to the Tour Docking proposal for the site, IBI highlighted a discrepancy between proposed objectives and situational realities. They noted that while PT discusses benefits of tourism docking, they also discuss limiting said use to “a floating dock with bus pick-up and no other dedicated facilities.”

The consultants also question the ability of the site to attract “high-quality tourist based cruises” while lacking any dedicated facilities that both passengers and operators would require on site.

In short, in their peer review, IBI questions the validity of the proposal citing the paradox of tourists disembarking through an extractive/industrial operation.

“Even with the Planning Addendum submission, it is unclear how tourists will be docking, disembarking, and moving through the site and out to the wider area (and vice versa) and whether there are health and safety risks associated with moving tourists through an active extractive and/or industrial operation. The concept plan does not address these issues and is absent any plans for tourist-specific facilities,” they stated.

Apart from issues raised regarding the applications themselves, IBI also brought forth numerous environmental considerations pertaining to the site. Of note is the site’s proximity to Picton Bay, much of which is an environmentally sensitive area, and the escarpment area on site.

IBI noted both features of the site should trigger consideration of the municipal environmental policies and that comments regarding those features was deficient.

“In the Original PJL, the applicant did not provide any comments concerning the Environmentally Sensitive Area and provided minimal comment about the Escarpment feature. Further, the discussion did not fully discuss or portray the various site works, including substantial escarpment excavation,” wrote IBI.

“Based on the July 26 covering letter to the Revised Submission, it appears County Staff requested an Environmental Evaluation…. Given that no additional comments were provided by the applicant, the original PJL is deficient in this manner,” they added.

According to the Official Plan, Environmentally Sensitive Areas “require that proper management practices be incorporated in order to protect the resource feature or species for future generations.”

As stated by IBI, a letter from the Department of Fishers and Oceans (DFO) authorized the proposed work while outlining conditions that must be adhered to, including a maximum disturbance area, habitat reconstruction measures, seasonal restrictions on in-water construction and monitoring.

IBI recommended a technical review committee be constructed to help with implementing this policy.

The original PJR (Planning Justification Report) provided some comments pertaining to the escarpment constraint on the property.

As quoted from the PJR, “new aggregate operations should generally be discouraged from locating on escarpments that are located close to major Provincial highways, County Roads, Lake Ontario and the Bay.”

However, IBI notes that PT focused only on the latter half of that policy by providing comment on how the proposed development is not an aggregate operation. Pointing to the work that has already been carried out on site, IBI states the submission lacks any mention of measures being taken to preserve the escarpment form “insensitive development and visual intrusion.”

According to the PJR, maximum vegetation and soil will be retained on escarpments. It also states building setbacks will be increased to prevent their loss or damage.

With regards to this, IBI has cited a comment from PT to the effect that there was little to no vegetation on the escarpment slope near the proposed and existing docking facilities as far back as the 1960s.

IBI appears to be arguing that PT is using historical degradation of the site to justify further such acts.

“The fact that portions of the escarpment did not have vegetation in the 1960s does not preclude best management practices and acting to introduce vegetation to those portions to prevent further erosion,” they wrote. “Site plan measures should be proposed to ensure a re-vegetation plan for the inactive escarpment portions, similar to that employed on the berms on the property and described in the Environmental Evaluation report. Furthermore, it is our opinion that historic aerial photos demonstrate that the current use of the property has degraded vegetation along the escarpment.”

In their summary recommendations, IBI states outright they do not support tour boat docking use on the site. Furthermore, they recommend that all proposed or required structures, facilities, and matters pertaining to tour boat docking be removed from the proposed plans.

Apart from this, they describe the SPC application as being “confusing and lacking in detail” citing a lack of supporting detail necessary to approve the plan.

With regards to the ZBLA application, IBI cites insufficient technical review of submitted material to justify approval. Citing “a range of outstanding comments and lack of coordinated technical review” as a concern, IBI asserted that for the ZBLA to proceed, a thorough review must confirm compliance with applicable policies, regulations, requirements and provisions.

Going forward, they further recommended that the municipality establish a technical review committee, comprised in part by members of Quinte Conservation and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, to meet with PT.

They also strongly recommend that the municipality retain a team of peer review consultants with a broad range of expertise, from natural heritage, groundwater, surface water, fish habitat, contamination, and others.

IBI argues that statements made to the effect that all requirements will be met is not sufficient given the nature of the site in question.

“Statements in the PJL that the proposal will meet all applicable requirements are not sufficient. Payment of peer review fees should be at the applicants’ expense,” they added.

For more information about the PT proposal, and to read the peer review in question, please visit: https://haveyoursay.thecounty.ca/planning/news_feed/picton-terminals.