Developers of 'The Crossing' project try to address east Saint John flooding concerns

A Northrup family company has scaled back the footprint and made other changes to reduce the environmental impact of a proposed retail development in east Saint John.

'The Crossing' would be a mixed commercial and residential development on a 49 hectare site beside Route 1 inside city limits.

It was first proposed by Horizon Management in an EIA application in 2016.

The project is described as a "highway centric" destination site "unrivalled in size, content, quality, and visibility in Atlantic Canada."

The retail project, which would be located next to a registered wetland area, had generated concerns it would contribute to flooding, a frequent issue for nearby Glen Falls and retail areas along McAllister Drive.

That remains a serious concern for Saint John environmentalist Gordon Dalzell.

"It still has a very significant impact on those wetlands, on Little Marsh Creek, and this whole area of vegetation and habitat," said Dalzell.

But according to the company's revised EIA document, "great strides have occurred in the project design.". Modifications to the plan would "reduce the impact" on the Little Marsh Creek, and nearby wetland areas, and minimize the area of floodwater storage space required.

"Little Marsh Creek and the contiguous wetland will be central features of the development whereby impact to those features has been minimized," says the document, written by Matt Alexander of Fundy Engineering.

Earlier plans by the company to alter the course of Little Marsh Creek have been set aside in the new proposal.

The EIA says there will be an increase in storm water runoff from the site, but storage areas will be developed to hold the water in an area along nearby Rothesay Avenue that will ensure less flooding "throughout the Marsh Creek Watershed."

Connell Smith, CBC

Dalzell says the proposed location absorbs a lot of water that could otherwise contribute to chronic floods in low lying areas in east Saint John.

"We're going to see the whole area flattened and levelled basically, with rock, gravel, buildings, including a Salisbury type Big Stop highway service system, and then asphalt."

Revised EIA documents describe three phases of construction totalling 114 thousand square meters of building space. All three phases would take 10 to 20 years.

But the bulk of the project,  phases 2 and 3, encompassing nearly 80 thousand square meters, are dependent on construction by the province of a Route 1 overpass at Foster Thurston and Ashburn Lake Road.

Construction of that highway overpass is uncertain.

It had been touted, but not budgeted by the previous Liberal government and has not been mentioned in either of two budgets introduced by the Progressive Conservative government.

Phase 1 of the revised Crossing plan would see 35,000 square meters of commercial building space anchored by what are referred to as 'Highway Services,' which include such things as gas stations, convenience stores, fast food and car washes.

No specific tenants are named.

Proponent John Wheatley of Horizon Management could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

Members of the public have until Feb. 5 to respond to the EIA.