Picton Bay could be hotbed of activity if rezoning application approved

The Whitefish Bay docked at Picton Terminals in November, 2016. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)



It could be full steam ahead for cruise ships and cargo shipments coming into Picton Bay should a proposal put forth by Picton Terminals (PT) move forward. Currently, PT has submitted a rezoning application to the municipality, which will determine the viability of their plans. The municipality is currently collecting public feedback regarding this proposal.

An informal, public information session regarding this was held Tuesday, August 25th. Upwards of 10 studies and other material relating to the PT application are available for public perusal on the municipal Have Your Say Website.

It has been close to a year since council chambers were overflowing with members of the public, many of whom spoke against the proposed rezoning amendment at that time.

During the meeting last fall, several members of the public expressed concern that the operation would provide little in the way of employment and more in the way of environmental harm.

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.

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

Anderson argued the employment produced by this project will fall short of providing a sizable 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.”

Yet others were heartened by the possible resurrection of the port which had been used by such magnates as Bethlehem Steel in bygone days.

Redevelopment of the PT property is a timely alignment with what made the County’s economy flourish in the past-shipping, farming and tourism,” argued long-time resident Damon Wells. “But, also, it helps support Eastern Ontario Municipalities, their infrastructure maintenance and, in the end, the local taxpayer.”

Since PT’s rezoning application was brought before council, many projects have been left in abeyance while governments-let alone individuals-weather the onslaught of changes brought about by the current pandemic.

As announced last fall, a report from staff replete with public input and peer review, is still in the works.

To that end, the informal public information session held August 25 provided an opportunity for the public to voice their comments or concerns.

According to one traffic study conducted by McIntosh Perry Consulting Ltd., cruise ship docking will begin on site in 2022, with an anticipated 10-20 cruise ships per year. It should be noted that each cruise ship may carry up to 420 passengers, with the majority carrying less.

It is anticipated that only one cruise ship at a time may dock at PT.

According to the same traffic study, cruise ship docking at the PT site is expected to necessitate two to four buses for passenger travel to and from the surrounding area.

Passengers will disembark for pre-booked tours at approximately 8:00 a.m. and return at approximately 4:00 p.m.

“The traffic impacts of vehicles associated with the cruise ship docking use of the site are anticipated to be negligible during peak hour conditions,” according to McIntosh Perry. “No traffic related concerns associated with cruise ship docking on the subject site have been identified. “

As noted in the Planning Justification, the proposal put forth by PT fulfills several stipulations in the Prince Edward County Official Plan (OP), which was adopted by council in 1993 and approved by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in 1998.

The Official Plan is intended to be used to guide development and direct initiatives and programs until 2021.

In Section 2.5.1 of the OP, economic opportunities are to be provided through a balance of agriculture, tourism, service and light industries, providing economic opportunities for people of all ages. As well, this section of the OP states that Council will “aggressively market” the County to businesses in an effort to attract young people.

By providing employment and supporting tourism, PT is described as meeting this requirement of the OP.

“The subject site is an existing deep water port which supports a wide range of employment opportunities within the region, including on-site operations as well as associated cargo movement and industries,” according to the report. “The proposal will support tourism within the County as well as the economy through the introduction of the cruise ship docking use. Cruise ship passengers will have the opportunity to visit the County once they have disembarked the ship and taken off the subject site.”

The proponent is also said to meet several other requirements of the OP, including helping the expansion of major “County-serving” commercial services, promoting a diverse and innovative service industry and providing an innovative economic opportunity, among others.

After a partially submerged barge owned by McKiel Marine located off PT leaked oil into Picton Bay three years ago, some residents have voiced concern for the future of Picton’s drinking water supply should more transshipment be encouraged at that site.

The incident back in 2017 necessitated a boil water advisory for several days.

Despite this, Quinte Conservation Authority has indicated that the site falls within the least vulnerable of Picton’s water intake zones.

“This zone is the least vulnerable of all zones for the Town of Picton’s drinking water intake, with a vulnerability score of 6. As a result, no significant threats can occur,” the report stated.

If approved, the rezoning may cast doubt into PT’s future business of accepting lake freighters carrying loads of sodium chloride for winter driving applications. Earlier this spring, Picton Terminals announced it will not accept shipments of road salt in 2020, and, as it relates to salt at Picton Terminals, “the future is unknown.”

The port operation, initially built by Bethlehem Steel in the 1950’s in order to transship Iron Ore mined from the Marmoraton Mine in Marmora, ON and delivered to elevators on Picton Bay by rail car was mostly dormant after that process ceased in 1978 but small number of ships have offloaded road salt at the site since 1985.

The salt was then trucked to regional municipalities and large scale winter maintenance companies in the region. Sandy Berg, spokesperson for Picton Terminals, said at the time this summer would be the first time since 1985 that ships carrying road salt won’t be coming into Picton Bay.

“Picton Terminals recognizes the inevitable added financial burden to regional road salt users, who must now travel farther to pick up road salt for their communities,” Berg said. “Local community road maintenance agencies who use salt in maintaining safe roads will increase truck miles driven on regional roadways, increase Greenhouse Gas Emissions and add to already congested Ontario highways as they pick up road salt next winter. Picton Terminals regrets the financial and logistical costs to salt users as a result of the decision to not accept road salt in 2020.”

As part of the operation, Picton Terminals accepted road salt from Windsor Salt and the trucking from the site to smaller storage domes throughout easter Ontario generally commenced in fall.

Storm water runoff from the salt piles across neighbouring proprieties and into Picton Bay has been investigated by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks for a number of years. In consultation with the MOECP as a result of Director’s Orders arising from elevated salt readings in ground water at the site and adjacent properties, Picton Terminals had been in the process of developing dry covered storage in the limestone cliff face .

To voice comments or concerns regarding the proposed rezoning of Picton Terminals, please visit: https://haveyoursay.thecounty.ca/planning where more information about this project is available.