Greater Napanee plans to hold open house regarding proposed asphalt plant later this summer

Greater Napanee town council continues to meet virtually, holding Zoom meetings while broadcasting them to the public via the town's YouTube channel.

Adam Prudhomme

Residents wanting more information and a chance to offer their input on the proposed asphalt plant will have an opportunity later this summer.

Greater Napanee council has directed town staff to come up with a date to host an open house on the matter. Staff will come back with a recommendation in late July or early August-in the meantime council says no decision will be made on the matter before the open house.

The issue was discussed at council’s June 22 meeting in response to a deputation by Mike Sewell, who requested a public consultation on the proposed plant.

Several members of the public have voiced opposition to R.W. Tomlinson Ltd.’s request to amend Greater Napanee’s Zoning Bylaw 02-22 to allow a portion of their 8205 County Road 2 property to allow for a permanent asphalt plant. An online group known as Greater Napanee Residents Against the Asphalt Plant, which is made up of over 600 members, has been very vocal about the project citing environmental concerns as well as its proximity to homes, the Napanee River and downtown core.

“I think we need some clarification that really I think at this point would be very helpful to a lot of residents and using some of the numbers that I’ve been given through the Facebook group, there’s now 2,950 folks who have signed a petition, there are over 600 people on the Facebook group and I’m sure you also saw the survey by the Chamber of Commerce,” Sewell told council. “All of which seem to be going in the same direction. There seems to be a request for more information about the zoning bylaw application. Rather than a public consultation at this point to talk about Tomlinson specifically, my request would be more let’s talk about the application, what does that mean in terms of the long term, let’s talk about what the process looks like, where we are, how we got here and I think a lot of people would like to know what sort of public notification processes are there within our bylaws and our official plans as well as what sort of protections or guarantees do the residents have that are written into our bylaws or if they’re not then this would be the time to have that conversation.”

Sewell pointed to neighbouring Stone Mills, where a group of citizens are pushing for a similar consultation in the wake of the controversial hog farm project proposal.

Councillor Dave Pinnell Jr. agreed it would be in everyone’s best interest for the town to hold an open house meeting regarding the asphalt plant and procedures.

“A lot of people just believe what they hear or what they read online without coming to the source,” said Pinnell Jr. to Sewell. “What you’re proposing is for us to tell you how it is, what the procedures are and as you said whether it’s right or wrong, this is the way it is, the way the process is going to go. I think that’s better for the residents.”

Councillor Ellen Johnson also supported the idea. She noted Tomlinson has yet to make an application to the town to operate a plant at that location and there is still time to gather public input.

“I would also support what Mike has said with regards to community discussion and strengthening factual information as to what will happen going forward,” said Johnson. “We are certainly as a council all have been recipients of emails with regards to people’s concerns. We have shared those amongst all of council and also with development services. I’m hoping we can do something in a more face-to-face environment as opposed to just a Zoom meeting.”

KFLA Public Health is expected to review the proposal and release a report by mid August. For that reason, Greater Napanee’s director of developmental services/chief building official Michael Nobes suggested it would be best to wait until at least mid-August to hold any open house meetings on the matter.

“(Tomlinson) has not yet requested to advance to a public meeting,” said Nobes. “They’re also looking forward to seeing what the health unit brings forward. They’re likely going to request that we hold off on a public meeting under the Planning Act to discuss the proposal until such time the health unit completes their review as well. Not to say that we couldn’t have an open house, it’s just that we likely won’t have all the information at that time if it’s prior to mid-August.”

Deputy Mayor Max Kaiser said given that it’s already late June and the plant would only operate in summer months, it’s extremely unlikely the plant would get all its approvals in time to operate this year anyway, meaning there’s still time to discuss the situation from all sides.

Mayor Marg Isbester added it’s important they get all the information to the public right from the source.

“Rumours get going and council can do this and council can do that. One Facebook page is saying it’s wonderful, let’s go ahead,” said Isbester. “Somebody else is saying it isn’t. Let’s let staff sit down and explain the process. Do some communicating and when things do start moving you’re 100 per cent right. We do need to have lots of consultation. It’s not just the citizens that need it, it’s council that needs to get every bit of information and listen to everyone all at once.”

“I will ask staff that they…bring back even some sort of a process forward that the public knows that we can’t just rubber stamp this,” added Isbester. “On the same thing that it can’t be stopped just because. There has to be factual information. There are two sides of it.”

Council voted to note and receive Sewell’s deputation.

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