Some residents of the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands worry a proposed zoning bylaw amendment allowing Kehoe Marine to expand operations could result in significant wetlands on the St. Lawrence River becoming an industrial site.
A zoning bylaw amendment application has been submitted by Fotenn Consultants Inc., on behalf of Kehoe Developments Inc., for the lands municipally known as 507-515 Thousand Islands Parkway, and 14-36 McCrae’s Bay Lane.
The application proposes to permit the continuation of rural industrial and marine manufacturing uses and open storage, and add one new storage building. It is proposed to change the zoning of the subject lands to Rural Industrial Special Exception Zone.
This concerns some residents of the community, who showed up to a public meeting on Tuesday. Opponents worry that industrializing this site could lead to the loss of animals and significant biodiversity. They note that the wetlands provide protection against wildfires and also soak up water, providing protection against flooding. Some members of the community also say this proposed change of zoning would set a dangerous precedent.
Deputy Mayor Terry Fodey, who chaired the discussion due to Mayor Corinna Smith-Gatcke declaring a conflict of interest, acknowledged the concerns.
“We can’t be the caretakers of this township and act like we don’t care about the environment,” said Fodey. “We have too much pristine property from all quarters of our township. We have the fortune of having the St. Lawrence River, the Rideau Canal and all the other waterways, and when we’re the caretakers sitting at council, when we’re addressing applications such as this, we have to absorb all of the information and how it may reflect on all of us. We can’t just look at it as an application for development and/or employment. There’s a much larger picture that members of council have to consider.”
Roughly 30 people were in the council chamber gallery.
“It was merely an information gathering from all sides,” said Fodey, who stressed no decisions have been made on the matter.
Coun. Jeff Lackie also declared a direct pecuniary interest and removed himself from the discussion.
“For the most part that I could understand, they were anti-this-application,” said Fodey about the members of the public who attended the meeting. “I didn’t hear anyone speak in favour of it, and that’s understandable because of the application implication. The Kehoes are looking to build and expand on all those properties that were small lots at one time, and thus, the McCrae Lane status is on each of those addresses. Those little properties wouldn’t amount to 0.1 or 0.2 acres per property. They’re small. But they’re all in unison, in a row, between the entrance of McCrae Lane off the Parkway, over to what Kehoe has as their main business. Kehoe owns all of them now, which needs to be understood. And their application is to be able to build a large building on there to do industrial applications. That’s what brought out the locals, environmentalists, people that are concerned about something that large and that industrial being on the river, and we didn’t expect anything less in terms of the turnout.”
Fodey stressed there’s “many boxes that still need to be checked off” when it comes to this application.
“This application is nowhere near the finish line,” said Fodey.
Fodey added he expects there will be another public meeting in the future regarding this application.
“Our staff will culminate everything that needs to be brought forward to council, and at some point, it will be brought back to the public as well, with a concise direction as to where this is going, if it’s going to go at all,” said Fodey.
“By no means does this have a thumbs up, it’s just part of the process.”
(Keith Dempsey is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Brockville Recorder and Times. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.)
Keith Dempsey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times