CBRM likes idea of corridor that links areas

By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Thur., May 18, 2006

Sydney - If $70 million is left over from cleanup costs, spend it on making Sydney harbour the economic engine this region needs for future growth, says the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

The chunk of change is possible if the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency drops its costly incineration proposal and instead fully encapsulates the tar ponds and coke ovens sites.

Municipal councillors passed a motion in January outlining their opposition to incineration and their preference for the stabilization and solidification of all contaminated waste.

Mayor John Morgan told panel members Wednesday that confronted with a "take it or leave it" offer from government, the community would prefer encapsulation over leaving the sites as is. However, it would prefer nothing be done if the community is forced to incinerate PCB waste. Morgan said the panel needs to weigh the seriousness of an unlikely or catastrophic event occurring at a PCB incinerator, its potential impacts on surrounding neighbourhoods, and the community's ability to recover from those losses. Considering most PAHs and about 11 per cent of PCBs will remain on the sites even if incineration is used, is it wise to expose residents to those risks, Morgan added.

In the January motion, councillors also recommended that the panel redirect funding currently earmarked for the incinerator component of the project to a future site-use plan consistent with the municipality's regional strategy for the port lands.

Once the sites are remediated, they would fit nicely with the municipality's plan to develop a seaport to airport corridor (Sydney harbour to Sydney Airport). The 13.9-kilometre corridor would link four modes of transportation, link several community assets and provide a commuter route between Sydney and Glace Bay.

In the municipality's newly adopted planning strategy, the corridor is described as "the necessary infrastructure enabling it to become the premier industrial/business park providing supply and fabrication service support to offshore business endeavours in the municipality and an ideal site for general manufacturing, regional service and utility functions.

Malcolm Gillis, municipal planner, provided the panel with its reasons for eliminating several other land uses. Residential use isn't likely because the municipality has a stagnant housing market. The municipality is now issuing about one-third the number of housing permits it did in the late 1980s. "We're talking about the floor caving in here," said Gillis. The municipality has an abundance of underutilized land suitable for agriculture, and there is no discernible pressure from suburban sprawl into those favourable agricultural lands. "Obviously, if development is down to one third, there's not a lot happening in suburbia," said Gillis.

The municipality can't afford to maintain and manage any additional recreational space. "The combination of the beauty of Cape Breton's landscape and its accessibility to urban residents renders the conversion of an urban brownfield site into a recreational area a poor public investment," said Gillis. However, the municipality supports using some of the remediated landscape to develop a trail system linking the harbour's boardwalk, nearby residential neighbourhoods, and undeveloped land near the coast. Specifically, the municipality recommends a pedestrian and bicycle corridor linking Whitney Pier to downtown and its waterfront via Coke Ovens Brook.

Gillis added that the region doesn't need another commercial space competing with existing business districts. "Declining population, meagre per capita spending power in comparison to other more vibrant economic regions and increased mobility within the region has resulted in shrinking central business districts."

Coun. Vince Hall said the municipality believes future land use for the sites is of fundamental importance to the future sustainability of the region. "We believe the panel must place considerable emphasis in its recommendations on future site use that is consistent with a vibrant and progressive and sustainable economy."

Seaport to Airport (13.9 kilometres) Corridor Concept

The former Sysco site is an integral piece in a puzzle that could link: All four modes of transportation (water, road, rail, airport). Essential regional assets such as Sydney's central business district, the Harbourside Business Park, Cape Breton University Commuter route linking the two largest communities on Cape Breton Island - Sydney and Glace Bay.

The cbrm's position on future land use

Six representatives, including Mayor John Morgan, presented the Cape Breton Regional Municipality's position on future land use during Wednesday's hearing. They recommend that remediated tar ponds and coke ovens properties be capped to accommodate industrial and transportation uses and become part of a corridor that begins at Sydney Harbour and ends at Sydney Airport.

Attributes that make a site favoured for Business/Industrial Park for a region include:

  • Access to a navigable and sheltered harbour.
  • Wharf, docking and pier facilities with a capacity to accommodate significant industrial activity.
  • Expansive lay-down area.
  • Rail access.
  • Access to Province's controlled access highway system.
  • Serviced land for expansion.
  • Abundant supply of potable and process water.
  • Low potential for land use conflict.
  • Proximity to primary central business district.

Cleanup in a click
Web sites that provide information on the joint panel process and the remediation plan include:

Picture not available for caption below:
Mayor John Morgan, John Whalley, Jerry Ryan, Malcolm Gillis, Doug Foster and Vince Hall presented the Cape Breton Regional Municipality's concerns during Wednesday's joint panel review hearing in Sydney. Today is reserved for final comments.