Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
July 24, 2024
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Out of Court

Council votes to seek a negotiated settlement with Picton Terminals — again.
<p>Unloading cargo at Picton Terminals&#8217; port on Picton Bay. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)</p>
Unloading cargo at Picton Terminals’ port on Picton Bay. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

Council returned from a closed session late Tuesday night last week with an order for yet another attempt to settle out of court with Picton Terminals.

Worried about the costs of proceeding, Council voted 8-4 in favour of “a final good faith effort to seek a negotiated agreement that will bring timely closure to the Picton Terminals’ litigation issue and provide tax levy mitigation prior to the 2025 budget planning cycle.”

Staff are to consult with the County’s lawyers to draft terms of settlement to bring to yet another closed session for approval.

Councillors Chris Braney, Sam Grosso, Brad Nieman, Bill Roberts, Phil St. Jean, David Harrison, Roy Pennell, and Mayor Steve Ferguson were in favour.

Opposed were Councillors John Hirsch, Kate MacNaughton, Janice Maynard and Phil Prinzen.

Members of the County Conservancy, a residents’ group concerned with the health of Picton Bay, were stunned at the about-face.

“Why go there again if you know exactly what’s going to come back?” asked County resident and U.S. attorney Ryan Wallach. “I guarantee any settlement Picton Terminal offers will have cruise ships and container ships.”

“I am solidly in favour of continuing to pursue the court case,” said Councillor John Hirsch. “The costs involved are nothing compared to the damage that will be caused to the County if Picton Terminals succeeds in getting what it wants. Picton Terminals has been very explicit about what it plans to do.”

On its website, Doornekamp Lines advertises a Halifax to Picton import-export business, 30 acres of available container storage, and its intention to expand the port’s operations to include multiple Great Lakes destinations in Ontario and the U.S.

“Meanwhile, all the environmental issues are still in play,” noted Councillor Hirsch. “Picton Bay is still the drinking water source for over 7000 people and will be for the foreseeable future.”

Leslie Stewart, President of the County Conservancy, said, “the County’s application for a Permanent Injunction against the Terminals clearly laid out where Picton Terminals was noncompliant with County laws and by-laws.  The County has the legal right to enforce its laws and by-laws, which should not be the subject of negotiation.”  

“Business and property owners comply with the bylaws. Picton Terminals should be no different.” 

Another resident, Victor Lind, also a member of the County Conservancy, noted, “The County, understandably, is growing weary and concerned about potential legal fees; but the real issue is larger than just Picton Terminals. It will set an ugly precedent for any industry with deep pockets that wants to flaunt the law.

“It is unlikely that Picton Terminals will settle for anything less than the ability to bring in container ships and the associated truck traffic up and down Hwy 49. So why would we settle?”

Zoning Dispute

In 2020, Council unanimously denied Picton Terminals’ rezoning application to allow for a Great Lakes cruise ship port destination and, crucially, the ability to store shipping containers at the 25-acre site on White Chapel Road.

The zoning of Picton Terminals allows only bulk storage on site. Opening the port to temporary container storage could dramatically increase international cargo shipping through Picton Bay.

The Terminals appealed the decision to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, arguing that as it was a port, only the federal Port Authority had jurisdiction over its operations. It withdrew that appeal in 2021.

The County filed an injunction with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in October 2022, seeking to restrain Picton Terminals from storing shipping containers. The injunction also sought to block cruise ships from docking at Picton Terminals. 

Attempts to reach a negotiated settlement stalemated last summer when the Terminals’ refused to give up its application to open its port to container shipping and to cruise ships.

At that point, the County issued a statement saying it had “no other course of action but to seek a court ruling” on the kinds of shipping and storage it would allow at the Port.

The County’s court case against the Terminals will continue even if accepts an offer to settle. In that case, both parties would request the court for a delay to see if it can reach an agreement.

A separate by-law enforcement order against Picton Terminals relates to its storage of shipping containers onsite. The municipality laid a charge against the company for not complying with the order within the two-week period granted. That matter is still ongoing, and the port is still storing shipping containers on its property. 

This text is from the Volume 194 No. 25 edition of The Picton Gazette
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