Bayside residents celebrate denial of lobster company's rezoning application
Gary MacDougall says industry belongs in industrial parks, not residential areas
Bayside residents are happy their fight to keep a lobster distribution centre from being built on the St. Croix waterfront has ended in a victory.
Members of Bayside Residents for Responsible Development learned Thursday the application by Little Bay Lobster of New Hampshire to rezone a piece of property from rural to light industrial had been denied by Environment and Local Government Minister Daniel Allain.
The company was proposing to build a 2,300-square-metre building that can hold as much as 300,000 pounds of live lobster on a former gravel pit property on the St. Croix River.
"We're very happy now with the result," said Gary MacDougall, whose home overlooks the property.
"A lot of people have had sleepless nights because they were quite concerned about what this might bring to the neighbourhood and how it might change things."
MacDougall said if the distribution centre had been built, it would have been located next to two residential subdivisions and a 205-site campground and have overlooked St. Croix Island, an international historic site.
"We just thought it'd be better to have residential in residential areas and industry in the industrial park."
13 days to prepare
Seafood warehousing is not recognized in the Bayside Rural Plan, so it would require authorization from the minister of environment and local government.
Residents first heard of the proposal in January when the company held an information meeting that few attended. MacDougall said after that they never heard anything about it.
"We thought it was a dead deal and they have gone somewhere else. And then we got a notice 13 days before a public hearing of the objection to the proposed rezoning."
MacDougall said they mailed information flyers to Bayside residents to make them aware of what was going on. Then the group had to formulate a response based on hundreds of pages of literature and stuff that had been produced over the last year and a half.
"It was unknown to us that this was all going on."
All opposed except company
MacDougall said the public hearing of objections to the rezoning was held in August by the Southwest Regional Service Commission. There were 74 people who participated in a Zoom meeting. All speakers except three Little Bay Lobster officials were opposed to the rezoning.
Then many sent letters to the provincial planning branch.
After the provincial election was over, MacDougall said, they met with St. Croix MLA Kathy Bockus about it and she took their concerns to Allain, who made the final decision.
As far as MacDougall knows, the decision is final and can't be appealed.
While he's grateful for the help they got and for the good end result, MacDougall said he hopes the rezoning application process is changed so communities can become aware of what is going on sooner rather than later.
"Anybody can walk in and file an application to rezone and then the whole community is put through this for however many months and are on pins and needles not knowing what's going on.
"I wish there was a better way and especially more of a flow of information from the planning people to the local residents."
MacDougall said residents also questioned why they had spent over a year putting together a rural plan for Bayside only to see a situation like this occur. The company was encouraged to build on available land in the industrial park, which is five minutes from the waterfront.
CBC News contacted Little Bay Lobster owner Jonathan Shafmaster for comment but received no response.
With files from Connell Smith