Bayside residents upset with proposal of lobster facility from New Hampshire based Little Bay Lobster

Bayside – Imagine you live right next to an ocean beach, with an amazing view of St. Croix Island, where you can watch seals and porpoises play from your back deck. The scenery is beautiful. The atmosphere is relaxed. It’s wonderfully quiet. Life is nearly idyllic. Now imagine living on that same ocean beach, and walking just a few hundred feet until you see a huge, industrial warehouse. You listen to transport trucks going up and down the road all day, backup beeps and all. Look up at the night sky and see bright lights instead of the constellations. And, don’t forget all of the odours that come with some industries.

Annalee Bartlett and Gary MacDougall are homeowners on Le Don de Deux Drive in Bayside, near Saint Andrews, and are members of the group, Bayside Residents for Responsible Development. They, and other residents of the area, are currently facing this exact situation, and they are worried that their beautiful little corner of the world will never be the same if a US company gets permission to build a lobster storage facility pretty much right in their back yards.

“We are against the rezoning of this area, to let an industry that would destroy basically the environment here,” said Bartlett. “We have a very peaceful, beautiful environment. It’s a historic area, and we enjoy nature at its best. If this industry moved in, we would be struggling with noise pollution, pollution of the water, light pollution, with an ugly, 10-meter high building, and 100 meters long on a beach that’s one of the loveliest beaches in Charlotte County, with a perfect view of St. Croix Island.”

Not only do residents have a million dollar view, the area is also home to an historic cemetery, and it is a popular destination for tourists. Campers at Island View Campground often walk along the beach to enjoy sunsets, something that would not be nearly as enjoyable for anyone if there is a large warehouse and trucking activity going on all the time.

“It’s a very historic area,” said Bartlett. “Actually, where we are is where Champlain planted his gardens. They walked along here. Another factor is we have a 200-year-old cemetery at the top of the hill. The site of this building would be adjacent to the cemetery. There are a number of factors that just don’t make sense to us.”

Little Bay Lobster of New Hampshire wants to use a parcel of land on the waterfront for an international lobster distribution centre. If the area is rezoned and the company is given permission to build, a 28,000 square foot facility will be built next to two residential subdivisions and a campground. This is not acceptable to the residents in these subdivisions, who worry that not only will they lose the beauty of the area, but will also see their property values lowered. The group is also worried the facility would affect the area because it is going to deter people from buying homes. In fact, at least one potential home sale has been cancelled due to fears the warehouse would ruin the landscape.

There is also a proposed amendment to the plan that would allow for future expansion, something that further concerns the group of residents. As it is, very few residents have been consulted about this proposal, and if rezoning of the area does take place, it would mean that residents would not be consulted at all if the company were to expand, or if other companies were to move in as well.

“They claim that they’re the largest lobster harvester in the world,” said MacDougall. “At the public meeting they held in January, only five households were notified. We were told that they would be trucking 300,000 lobster at a time for three to four months, and then trucking them back to New Hampshire.”

MacDougall, along with the other members of the group, feel Little Bay Lobster is operating in this manner so they can ship lobster to China and avoid international tariffs, along with being able to say that their lobster is packaged in Canada. Once the residents questioned this, Little Bay Lobster said they would be using 80 per cent Canadian lobster, and now they have stated that it will be 100 per cent Canadian. As for job creation, this new facility would only be creating six to eight warehouse jobs, and economically, it wouldn’t have nearly as much of an impact as having people buying homes in the area, and having tourists visiting and spending their money in Charlotte County.

“The local lobster people don’t know where they are going to buy these lobsters, because there aren’t any extra lobsters to go around,” said MacDougall. “If that was the case, they would be buying from other Canadian wholesalers, and putting them out of business. It makes no sense economically.

“They’re talking about six or eight warehouse jobs. Meanwhile, two houses that were going to be built on this street have been cancelled until this is settled. We’re looking at the ripple effect economically.

If people aren’t comfortable moving to an area where they can change the zoning, they’re not going to move here. They’re not going to visit here. They’re not going to come here if they’ve got a big, ugly tin building to look at.”

Bartlett said current residents would be “facing economic loss” because their environment will be ruined with the addition of this facility. She said she and other residents have spoken with real estate experts, who have told them the economic loss could be devastating.

“All of our properties would devalue a great deal. We’re facing economic loss as well with the ruination of the environment,” said Bartlett.

Last week, Bartlett and MacDougall met with Saint Croix MLA Kathy Bockus. Bartlett said she was supportive, taking their information and promising to pass it along to Daniel Allain, minister of local government and local governance reform. The following day, Bockus contacted them to say she had indeed forwarded their information. Now, the group is waiting to hear what he has to say on the issue, and whether or not they will be able to prevent the facility from being built at their beach.

There is another site available in a nearby industrial park the group feels would be a better location for the warehouse. Little Bay Lobster has said the alternate site is not feasible, because it is not close enough to the water, and they wouldn’t be able to pump water into their facility. MacDougall said other companies are able to pump water from much longer distances, and he thinks that the company is simply looking for a way to pinch pennies, at the expense of residents who don’t want this type of industry in their back yards.

“Currently, the industrial park pumps water up 69 meters, vertically, from Chamcook Lake, to feed the water supply to the industrial park. Certainly, the technology is available. They just don’t want to pay the price for power to pump the water uphill,” said MacDougall.

Bartlett said many residents have sent out letters to the government, expressing their concerns about this project. She and MacDougall, along with many other residents, don’t understand how an area that has been designated as residential can suddenly be rezoned for commercial businesses such as Little Bay Lobster. They said it doesn’t make any sense, and most residents are concerned that all they have worked for will be lost with the lowering of property values, not to mention the loss of tourism in the area.

“A Bayside rural plan was established, and this proposal for rezoning goes against everything they’ve laid out for this plan,” said Bartlett.

sarigreen@stcroixcourier.ca