Gateway to the World’s Economy

The Plan

2014: The Doornekamp family of Odessa, Ontario, purchased the old Marmora dock on Picton Bay, through their ABNA Investments company. They planned to “revitalize” the defunct facility into a new deep-water port, Picton Terminals, “a gateway to the world’s economy.”  It would accommodate the loading and unloading of 100+/-  deep-draught lake and ocean-going ships annually.

Proposed cargoes: road salt, aggregates (gravel etc), fertilizers, biomass (eg garbage and/or manure), wine barrels, new and scrap steel.  Others have since been added: bauxite, and petroleum coke (petcoke), an industrial fuel.

The Reality

Early 2015.  Port operations begin.

Spring 2015.  A resident living near the Picton Terminals site found salt (brine) spilling across his land and down the cliff face into the Bay.  He contacted the Quinte Conservation Authority and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.

  1. A storm outfall pipe was found to be releasing salt and bauxite run-off into Picton Bay.

Autumn 2015.  PEC residents Bob Bird, Dave Sutherland, Dave Mackay and Larry Richardson approached County Council to support Anne Taylor and Mike Hymus, whose homes are both adjacent to the Picton Terminals site on White Chapel Road. The Hymus pond had suffered severe damage from salt contamination, and Anne Taylor faced dust and noise well above permissible limits.

September 2015 – June 2016.  Six domestic and foreign ships moved a variety of materials through the port.  Salt was piled on a plot of land zoned for residential and agricultural use only.

April 2016.  Ben Doornekamp of ABNA Investments assured Prince Edward County (PEC) Council that the port project will generate many new jobs throughout the region.  He also cited a 2014 provincial government report, the Eastern Ontario Transportation Needs Analysis (EOTNA), which promotes the establishment of a new deep-water port on the north shore of Lake Ontario.  The report sets out clear criteria for determining an appropriate site.  Picton Bay does not score well on a number of these, particularly in lacking railway access.

May 2016.  Ben Doornekamp told the press: “In the shipping world if you don’t do it right the first time – big, strong and fast – don’t bother doing it because vessels aren’t going to come to the port.”  The Intelligencer, Belleville, May 5, 2016.

May 2016.  PEC Council voted to support Picton Terminal’s “revitalization” plan, and urged the provincial and federal governments to fund two industrial cranes for the new port.

February 2016.  To help remediate run-off into the Bay, also to accommodate larger vessels and future barge traffic,  Picton Terminals received permission from the Quinte Conservation Authority (QCA) to excavate and fill the dock area, including blasting the rock face.  Over clear reservations from staff, the QCA Board permitted the company to construct a road down to the water and to enclose and fill the dock’s old steel bumpers.  This, QCA board members hoped, would prevent further spills into the water between the docks and the shore.

Spring 2016.  In rebuilding their lakeside water-pumping station, PT damaged the escarpment, which is clearly designated Environmental Protection in both its zoning and PEC’s official plan.

Spring 2016.  Anne Taylor, a home-owner adjacent to the port site found a wall of rubble from the port excavation only eight meters from their property line.  The minimum zoning setback is 30 meters.

Spring 2016Save Picton Bay was formed.  (Read more here: (html) Save Picton Bay.)

August 2016.  Picton Terminals applied to Prince Edward County to rezone the site, to adjust certain terms, while maintaining that they still enjoyed ‘legal non-conforming” status, based on the earlier Marmora dock zoning, allowing them to transport industrial goods by ship and truck.

September 2016.  The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) ordered PT to prevent further discharge of salt into the environment by managing stormwater runoff, removing excess salt from the storage area, and covering the salt to protect it from wind and rain, also to undertake several environmental engineering studies on the site.

A few days after PT received this order, the company took delivery of a further shipment of salt, 29,000 metric tonnes.  It lay uncovered for more than a month, blowing and leaching.

October 2016.  PT took delivery via truck of a shipment of petroleum coke (petcoke), on contract to the Lafarge cement factory in Bath.  It would be stored at the port, and trucked to Bath as needed.

October 2016: A wind-borne spill of fine petcoke dust infiltrated Anne Taylor’s house.  This toxic substance should not be inhaled, and Picton Terminals’ handling of it is subject to further investigation by the MOECC.

October 2016.  Ben Doornekamp of PT raised the possibility of shipping garbage in sealed containers on barges from the port to Oswego, NY, for processing in New York state.

November 2016: The MOECC served Picton Terminals with a Provincial Officer’s Order.  In a report detailing  environmental infractions and failures to remediate, the MOECC issued twelve work orders requiring the company to take immediate specified measures to stop pollution of water, air and ground, and to fully remediate adjacent properties.

December 2016.  Picton Terminals withdrew its application for re-zoning, to concentrate on the MOECC work orders.

Zoning Conflict

December 2016Save Picton Bay retained a lawyer, Eric Gillespie, and requested a legal opinion on this key question:  Could Picton Terminals legally continue its present operations under the terms of the original 2006 zoning, or would it be legally compelled to seek a re-zoning in order to continue operating as a port?

January 2017.  Lawyer Eric Gillespie issued a legal opinion:  “…the current uses are not related or ancillary to anything which would be considered a permitted use under the current zoning…. therefore, they appear to be illegal.”  In other words, the company could not continue its port operations without a change in zoning.

February 2017.  Lawyer for Prince Edward County, Wayne Fairbrother of Templeman, Menninga LLP, issued a legal opinion, arguing that PT’s current uses of the site constitute “a continuing legal nonconforming use of the property.”  Therefore PT was legally entitled by the earlier zoning permission to continue its operations as a port.

March 2017.  Lawyer for SPB Eric Gillespie issued a counter-opinion, arguing that the County’s lawyer depended on information that is “erroneous on several grounds,” and therefore is “in error and not reliable.”  He concluded that PT’s current uses of the site do not constitute a continuing legal nonconforming use, and therefore should stop until the appropriate zoning is obtained.

A Wake-up Call

Thursday, March 23, 2017.  While moored at the Picton Terminals dock, an industrial barge sank.  (Read more on the crisis here: (html) Picton Bay: a life story.)

March 30.  At the PEC Council Committee of the Whole meeting, a motion was passed to withdraw Council’s May 2016 support for Picton Terminals’ revitalization of the port.

April 11.  At the regular meeting of Prince Edward County Council, the March 30 motion was split into two.  The first, to withdraw support for PT’s revitalization of the port, was defeated, 10-5.  The second passed unanimously: to request a report from PEC staff on municipal options related to the activities of the business “in order to ensure the intent of municipal land use regulations and municipal and public interest, including obligations to our drinking water system, are being protected to the full extent of the law.”

With a new shipping season underway, operations continue at the port.

So do most of the issues raised since it opened.


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