CBRM won’t release assessment of property
The Cape Breton Regional Municipality has refused a request to release the environmental assessment of the private waterfront property it hopes to acquire to construct a second cruise ship berth.
The Cape Breton Post made an application under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act for the assessment, which has been referred to in a consultant’s report on the feasibility of the project and to which Mayor Cecil Clarke has made reference in interviews.
The CBRM has indicated the preferred location for the second berth is a site currently owned by North Sydney businessman Jerry Nickerson.
In a letter denying The Post’s request, clerk Deborah Campbell referred to sections under the Municipal Government Act. The first is in respect to confidential information.
“The responsible officer shall, unless the third party consents, refuse to disclose to an applicant information … commercial, financial, labour relations, scientific or technical information of a third party … that is supplied, implicitly or explicitly, in confidence … the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to harm significantly the competitive position, or interfere significantly with the negotiating position, of the third party; result in similar information no longer being supplied to the municipality when it is in the public interest that similar information continue to be supplied.”
The letter also said the report is subject to solicitor-client privilege.
The Post also requested any staff reports on the findings of the environmental assessment but was told there are no such
A report on the due diligence of the second berth was made
public earlier this year. Consultant CPCS was funded by the provincial Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. Both agencies have since announced that they will provide their portions of the funding for the $20-million cost-shared project, which the CBRM had identified as its top infrastructure priority.
The Nickerson property is known to have some contamination related to its former industrial uses. While the extent of the contamination is unclear, Clarke said when the federal-provincial funding announcement was made that some baseline work had taken place and there is available local expertise in remediation.
In its report, CPCS said the primary risk associated with the project relates to the potential for cost overruns. Detailed engineering for the project is underway.
The report stated, “that the price for the acquisition of the Nickerson property is considerably higher than budgeted in the funding application ($6 million vs. $1.5 million budgeted). This remains unresolved though CBRM could choose to expropriate the land. This land is also contaminated and we are not satisfied that the potential environmental remediation costs have been appropriately accounted for in the estimated costs of the second berth project.”
Overall, the CPCS report found that the second berth proposal had merit.
Clarke has said, if necessary, the CBRM could expropriate the land or could look at a different design that would not require the Nickerson property.
In the event that there are cost overruns, they would be the responsibility of the CBRM, although Clarke has insisted the CBRM will work within the $20-million envelope.
This is a rendering of what the second cruise ship berth at the port of Sydney could look like. The CBRM has denied a request from the Post under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act for the environmental assessment done on the preferred site for the berth.