In a surprising series of motions late in the evening at last Tuesday’s regular meeting, Council did an about-face with Picton Terminals.
The two parties will meet in court after all.
The decision puts an end to the council’s attempt to reach a negotiated agreement with the Terminals.
Council intends to continue with its application for a permanent injunction to prevent the Terminals from expanding its operations without municipal approvals. That injunction was filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in October 2022. The parties will now meet in court August 4.
That injunction seeks to restrain Picton Terminals from developing outdoor container storage and a facility to load and unload containers. The injunction also seeks to block cruise ships from docking at Picton Terminals.
“While we appreciate the work of our staff and legal team as well as representatives from Picton Terminals, in the end Council did not believe the proposed agreement sufficiently addressed the serious concerns we have with the operation of Picton Terminals,” said Mayor Steve Ferguson.
After a marathon 5.5 hours, which included two closed sessions bookending the regular council meeting, two motions emerged with strong support.
The first, moved by Councillors Phil Prinzen and Janice Maynard, directed staff “to re-engage legal counsel and pursue a legal settlement through the courts with regards to the outstanding legal matter with Picton Terminals.” It passed with ten in favour while Councillors Pennell, Harrison, and Nieman were not.
The second was moved by Councillors Roberts and Braney, and directed “the Mayor and CAO to arrange a Council-to-Council meeting with the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte on the Picton Terminals matter.” This motion passed with 11 in favour while Councillors Neiman and Harrison were not.
During the regular council meeting, two local residents made deputations concerning Picton Terminals. Ken Stewart described the extraordinary noise, up to 95 decibels, emitted by the rock quarrying and shipping underway on the site’s escarpment on the waterfront. The Terminals does not have a permit for rock quarrying.
Ryan Wallach, who is an attorney, urged Council not to give up its legal case against the Terminals, arguing that any settlement would be premature.
“Current law prohibits Picton Terminals from storing shipping containers on its properties. Yet it has around 200 containers on its escarpment, stacked fifty feet high, in blatant violation of county bylaws,” he noted.
“It’s claim to be above the law rests on its assertion that all ports in Canada are regulated by the federal government, and that the County has no legal jurisdiction to regulate the port.”
“Never have they explained these claims or made these arguments in court, where they could not lie about their rights and where these claims would be scrutinized under the actual law,” said Mr. Wallach.
Due to requests for delays, an appeal withdrawn at the last moment, and the latest round of settlement negotiations, “Picton Terminals has not had to file a single document or testify in court to explain why it thinks it is not subject to local or provincial laws. Why settle with them,” he asked, “just before it is due back in court to explain its claims?”
“Let Picton Terminals put its money where its mouth is, and let it explain why it is not subject to the law.”
The advice apparently did not fall on deaf ears.
The County will also pursue its by-law enforcement order against Picton Terminals related to its storing of shipping containers on the site. The municipality has laid a charge against the company for failure to comply with the order within two weeks. At the first court appearance on July 7, the judge adjourned the matter until September 15 to allow for further disclosure.