Impact versus economy: C.B.S. town council mulls OCI proposal
Final town vote on controversial proposal could come within a month
Conception Bay South's deputy mayor says the town has to consider two important factors before it votes on whether to approve an ambitious infill proposal for the harbour in Long Pond: the impact on residents, weighed against possible economic spinoffs.
While Richard Murphy says it's too early to speculate on which way he will vote, he says he does see the economic upside to the project.
"In this day and age, when economic development is at an all-time low, we have a company now that wants to come into the town and set up, which means 30 to 40 full-time jobs, $15 million in startup," he told CBC News on Tuesday.
Murphy said Ocean Choice International's proposal for a wharf and cold storage facility could also spark other economic benefits when it is finished.
If approved, OCI's proposal would see part of the Long Pond harbour filled in to make way for the new development. Some residents oppose it, saying the plans would have an adverse environmental impact on the area. They have been calling for an environmental assessment and for the project to be moved along the Conception Bay shoreline.
OCI recently altered its plans and shifted the project to the harbour's southwest, which has traditionally been the industrial side, while the eastern side has homes and is also used for recreational boating. The shift opens up more room for small craft entering and exiting the harbour.
In a media release Friday, company president Blaine Sullivan said the adjustments were made after getting feedback from Transport Canada's navigable waters division, which is part of the regulatory process, as well as from people who have "shown an interest" in the company's proposal.
"For a project this size, there's been more openness, more consultation. We've set up a website, we've put everything out there," said Sullivan in an interview the same day.
Sullivan said if the company gets the green light, he wants infill work to start as soon as possible so construction could begin on the cold storage facility next summer.
Once completed, it would store the company's frozen-at-sea product from five of its offshore fishing vessels.
Ted Perrin, who grew up in Long Pond and uses the harbour for both commercial and recreational boating, said Monday the recent alterations make it a little better for boats to pass. But, he said, the plan still leaves a lot of unknowns, such as potential line-of-sight issues and whether the spring thaw could lead to an ice blockage and flooding.
"You're still building an island in the middle of the harbour that's used by pleasure boats and commercial boats continuously 365 days of the year," said Perrin, who is part of the community group Advocates for the Responsible Development of Long Pond.
Fellow group member Andrea Canning wants much bigger project alterations.
"It's essentially in the middle of the harbour. So when we look out here we're going to see cars parked in the middle of our harbour," said Canning. "Why can't that be on the shoreline?"
We're going to see cars parked in the middle of our harbour. Why can't that be on the shoreline?- Andrea Canning
Both Canning and Perrin say they want to see the company, the town council and residents agree on a plan that everyone is happy about.
For its current proposal, OCI still has to complete a land-use impact assessment report, which would identify and propose mitigation of potential environmental and community impacts.
"We're going to want to make sure that all the facts are laid out and the decision is based on good stuff for the town, good stuff for the residents. We want to try and get that balance," said Murphy.
He said a final vote could be within three weeks.