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Other sites worth a thought for marine industrial park

An extended version of following letter was submitted to the Town of Harbour Grace prior to a public hearing held last week.

This image included in a feasibility study shows what the proposed marine industrial park in Harbour Grace could look like. This concept has reportedly been altered to move the park 200 feet from the shore adjacent to Water Street.

As business owner(s) within, and resident(s) of the Designated Heritage District of Harbour Grace who will be directly affected by the proposed marine industrial expansion, we can only surmise as to the social and economic impact such a development might have on our business and resident(s) lifestyle(s) without the benefit of participating in a socio-economic impact study.

One would hope that as valued residents who maintain (at great length and expense) aesthetically pleasing home(s) and ground(s) within the Heritage District, we would be afforded the opportunity of insight into the project proposal process and municipal inclusion as taxpayers.

The marine industrial development expansion as currently proposed, will encroach upon and consume the “entire” Heritage District coastal frontage along Water Street. Should this project proceed, then a synergy of heritage and industrial development expansion would be the only recourse available to the Heritage District, existing business, attractions and residents to facilitate mitigating measures and enhance heritage prospects and economic longevity. A highly unlikely long-term scenario at best with or without inclusion in the project process.

Currently (and as is understood to date), the primary proponents of the proposed marine industrial expansion are the Town of Harbour Grace and private enterprise. The Funding proponent is the Atlantic Canada Opportunity Agency (ACOA) through one of the agencies funding programs.

The MIE Feasibility Study SNC Lavalin, funded by ACOA on behalf of the proponents at a cost of some $175,000, is of course favourable to the proponents of the project and was only mandated to consider the Designated Heritage District shoreline site. It did not consider alternate site options, which we consider erroneous and should have been mandated, nor was consultation with residents of the affected area.

The MIE Project once approved municipally, then would go through the necessary regulatory channels for final approval and release to proceed. Our concern is without proper representation from non-economic stakeholders and residents alike, this project could potentially be released from further scrutiny within 45 days of registration with the department of Environment and Conservation. This would mean no further action or assessments or consultations such as an environmental preview report, environmental impact study, or socio-economic impact study or a public inquiry (meeting) would be required.

If one were to assume that such a huge marine industrial expansion would require that a contingency plan or alternate site selection be designated, should, for some reason, the current proposed expansion site (ie. the Heritage District marine coastal frontage) be rejected for any myriad of municipal, provincial and federal concerns, be they

1.) a marine archaeology survey,as would be expected given the heritage and history of Harbour Grace harbour;

2.) an environmental impact study as would be mandated with federal funding and the Federal Environment Assessment Act;

3.) a socio-economic impact study as would be expected considering the enormity and location (all of the Water Street shoreline in the Heritage District, of the proposed development and the impact on the residents and tourism potential;

then one would look to the rational and socio-economic argument of utilizing the two already existing and municipally designated industrial zones located at

1.) Point of Beach and DFO docks;

2.) Ships’ Head area lands and waterfront behind the now defunct Terra Nova Shoes factory.

These existing industrial zone municipal designations would certainly lend themselves to be ideal marine industrial expansion sites.

The Point of Beach and docks as an already active industrial site and with infrastructure already in place should be a primary site choice for this type of Marine Industrial Expansion.

The Ships Head Area land and shoreline behind the vacated factory (previously a deep water port utilization) offers an ideal site location. The topography offers, not only minimally invasive marine dredging needs for port/docking facilities, but is also minimally invasive to residents (ie. noise and air pollution) due to vacant non-residential lands and the natural buffering effect of Ships’ Head itself to mitigate the anticipated and inevitable negative environmental impacts during the construction and operational phases of the project’s life.

Economic prosperity and the overall well being of the community is surely the intent and mandate of, not only our elected officials, but all of us as residents and business owners. An inclusion process as taxpayers in matters that might impact that prosperity and well being should be a priority and should occur long before municipal zonal changes occur to accommodate such projects.

We respect the Town of Harbour Grace attempts at public engagement and inclusion to date regarding the project however we would have expected a more cohesive consultative inclusion process at least at the project feasibilty study stage to which the socio-economic impact was not addressed save for a small paragraph.

We look forward to your departments’ advisory input, comments and position as to this proposed marine industrial expansion project at Harbour Grace.

George and Lynn Butler, co-owners of Rothesay House Heritage Inn, write from Harbour Grace

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