Terminals withdraws from LPAT hearing, legal showdown with County likely looming

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

JASON PARKS

STAFF WRITER

A legal line in the sand (or is it salt?) is being drawn in when it comes activities and who (and who doesn’t) govern what happens at Picton Terminals.

The operation owned by ABNA Investments Ltd, a company held by the Doornekamp Family, announced just hours before they were to argue their case to allow for their property to be rezoned to allow for container carrying vessels and cruise ships to dock at the port before the Ontario Land Tribunal’s Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

In a statement advising they had formally withdrawn their appeal of a County Council discussion denying the rezoning, Picton Terminals are now of the understanding at such a late hour that decisions of municipal government and the auspices of the Province of Ontario no longer apply to them. 

“All ports in Canada are regulated by the federal government. The Canadian Constitution separates the powers of the federal government from those of the provinces. Shipping and navigation is a power wholly within the jurisdiction of the federal government. What this means is that the province has no jurisdiction to regulate the activities of a port,” the statement read. “Because the County is a level of government created by the Province of Ontario, the County also has no legal jurisdiction to regulate the Port.”

The statement went on to say “Picton Terminals will continue to operate as a good neighbour and to work diligently to comply with all provincial and federal laws that validly regulate port activity.”

An artist’s rendition of cargo containers at the shoreline at Picton Terminals. (Picton Terminals website screen grab from 2020)

Since purchasing and ramping up the port in 2014, Picton Terminals has run afoul of the Ministry of Environment a number of times due to sodium chloride leaching into Picton Bay as well as a rouge emission of petcoke that contaminated a nearby residence.

Picton Terminals was also the scene of the Galcon Marine’s Pitts Carillon barge sinking that caused over 30 litres of petrochemicals to enter Picton Bay and threaten the town’s drinking water intake in 2017.

“We had a vision of revitalizing the Port into a facility that would benefit the County and the broader area with jobs and economic opportunity. We worked with the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks to eliminate off-site migration of salt from the Port and obtained Ministry approval for a salt storage area that is found in no other port in the Province,” the statement said. “This facility, when complete, will truly be world class and lead the industry in the prevention of salt contamination into waterbodies.”

In response, the County said it was aware of ABNA choosing to drop its appeal that “Would have challenged to Council’s unanimous decision to deny a re-zoning application that would permit expanded shipping activity at the site” at the last second.

“Furthermore, ABNA Investments Ltd. has challenged the municipality’s jurisdiction to regulate activities at the port through zoning and the Official Plan. ABNA Investments Ltd. has stated that they will continue operations at the port, notwithstanding municipal disapproval,” the statement read. “We are aware that is an important issue for residents and are working quickly to investigate options.The County will update the public and media as soon as new information becomes available.”

In a statement to the Gazette, President of the County Conservancy Leslie Stewart said it was pleased Picton Terminals had withdrawn its appeal and thanked the County Council for its commitment and efforts to protect County residents and visitors.

“The County Conservancy will continue to support the County and Council in their efforts to stop Picton Terminals from violating the municipal laws and exceeding the scope of its legal non-conforming use by bringing container and cruise ships into the Bay.  We remain vigilant in ensuring that Picton Terminals operates lawfully and in compliance with all of its current obligations,” Stewart said.

The conservancy group has been monitoring the site and activities to ensure environmental requirements are met, noise or simply having a valid permit for its activities.

The Conservancy said to their knowledge and research, Picton Terminals has not applied for or secured any municipal licenses for ongoing operations or businesses since 2018.

“Our role is to hold business and governments accountable in order to do what is right for the residents of the County, our water and our environment,” Stewart added.