CORNWALL, Ontario – It could be years before the harbour lands in Cornwall start to see things like parks and docks for pleasure craft, city councillors learned Monday night.
While the city, Akwesasne and Transport Canada are approaching the end of negotiations that will see the federal government divest itself of the property, even if that happens soon it will take years to redevelop the land.
Planning manager Ken Bedford told the city councillors at a planning advisory committee (PAC) meeting Monday plans to change the zoning of the land – which includes controversial chemical tanks owned by Trillium Distribution – are only the first step in a long process.
“Really we’re looking at what the appropriate moves will be towards the future. The next 20 years for example,” he said.
Harmonizing the zoning in the region, and moving away from manufacturing-type operations, will open up the space for playgrounds, docks and park space – years from now.
A former city councillor who attended the meeting said the public is looking for answers sooner rather than later.
“This means nothing unless there is a date some time down the road,” Claude Poirier told PAC members. “I’m supportive of what is proposed…but the question that begs to be answered – these lands are government of Canada lands – when can we conceivably look at some true action?”
It’s a good question – with no specific answer.
“There are leases that are on the property,” said Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy – referring to the Trillium lease to operate its chemical tanks. “Those leases are still confidential because they are the property of the federal government, not the City of Cornwall. There are escape clauses that fall short of the dates of the lease.
“(But) they cannot be discussed at this time.”
Coun. Bernadette Clement said it’s important to consider future land uses for the harbour early in the process.
“We’re looking and planning for the future – and this is what we’re looking at,” she said. “We didn’t do that before and look what we got stuck with – tanks!”
Coun. Mark MacDonald said the public won’t wait decades for movement on the harbour file.
“They don’t want to see it over 20 years. They want it over a few years,” he said. “We cannot drop the ball on the Port of Cornwall. The federal government shoved those tanks down our throats.
“I think it is only fair the public know at the very minimum how long those tanks will be there.”
O’Shaughnessy confirmed Akwesasne officials have been apprised of the zoning changes planned by city hall, and are largely supportive of the moves being planned.
PAC is expected to approve the zoning changes next month.
In the meantime the use of the Cornwall port as a working harbour has been extremely limited.
It’s unlikely any future use of the harbour will not include a manufacturing component for deep-water vessels transporting goods.