Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
July 19, 2024
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Behind Closed Doors

Council votes 7-6 to pursue a settlement with Picton Terminals

In yet another closed session last Tuesday night, Council approved draft terms produced by staff two weeks after it voted to move toward settling out of court with the shipping company.   

The County’s lawyers have been directed to seek Picton Terminals’ agreement to the terms of settlement. After a deal has been made, a meeting will be convened with the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte to advise them of the fact.

The public will only be able to see the terms of the agreement when a bylaw is brought forward for a vote in open session, probably by August.

In favour were Councillors Braney, Engelsdorfer, Harrison, Grosso, Nieman, Pennell, and Roberts. Opposed were Councillors Hirsch, MacNaughton, Maynard, Prinzen, St-Jean, and the Mayor. Councillor Branderhorst was absent.

The motion carried by one vote. A tie would have meant failure to carry.

All discussion of the settlement agreement prior to the vote on the bylaw to implement it will be closed. The motion reads, “the executed minutes of settlement [will] be made public with the applicable Council agenda.”

“The public will be able to see the draft terms after acceptance by Picton Terminals and after the meeting with the MOBQ when the settlement agreement will be 

brought forward to become a bylaw in open session.”

The only element to take place in the open, out of closed session, is the actual vote on the bylaw.

“A major initiative of this term of Council has been to encourage and facilitate public input into our decision making. I felt that we really owed it to the public to let them have a look before we take it to Picton Terminals,” said Councillor John Hirsch.

“Now, the only opportunity for the public to weigh in is when a finished agreement comes to Council for bylaw approval.”

Resident Ryan Wallach noted the speed with which County staff produced a settlement agreement suggested last year’s rejected settlement had been dusted off.

 “I believe last year’s terms gave Picton Terminals everything it wanted — expanding operations to adjacent properties, 24 hours a day, container transshipment and storage, no County enforcement — not much of a settlement for the County or for the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, who need to be consulted before negotiations take place.

“That is why Council turned it down. And has said ‘No’ to Picton Terminals twice now in full Council vote.

“There is nothing in this for the County — unless I’m missing something.”

Deaf Ears

The common theme of five comments from the audience was transparency.

“These meetings have been behind closed doors,” noted Ken Stewart of the County Conservancy. “What’s the secret? When are we going to let citizens, those who have a vested interest, when are we going to let them have their say? Are we going to have a public meeting prior to negotiating, or are we going to be left in the dark?” He noted the Terminals’ documented disregard for County laws, as well as the County’s failure to enforce its bylaws.

The County Conservancy replaced Save Picton Bay, a residents’ group concerned about the water quality in the harbour shared with the Terminals, the drinking water source for over 7000 people in Picton and Bloomfield. That group was forced to dissolve as a condition of its court case against Picton Terminals in 2019.

Bob Coooke also spoke.  “I don’t know if you should be negotiating with them or not,” he said. “Everything has been done without disclosure.”

Mr. Cooke estimated that the rock quarrying at the Picton Terminals property, which requires blasting for several days every month, amounted to tens of millions of dollars of stone sold and shipped by PT barges. “Yet no royalties or fees have been paid to the County for that extraction, which PT claims is all incidental to construction — only it’s my understanding that it doesn’t have a construction permit from the County. It’s all very puzzling.”

The President of the County Conservancy, Leslie Stewart, wondered, “has anybody asked taxpayers if this is where they want to spend their money? Perhaps the answer is yes.” She stressed that County taxpayers want Picton Terminals to comply with County bylaws, and want the legal case against the company pursued in court. 

Elizabeth Crombie had the last word. “They have not been good neighbours, they have not been trustworthy. The are not environmentally responsible. Yet instead of holding their feet to the fire, you are going to make a deal with them.” 

This text is from the Volume 194 No. 27 edition of The Picton Gazette
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