Ac­cess road re­ceives fi­nal ap­proval

Comes on heels of re­cent Supreme Court de­ci­sion rul­ing in favour of Ea­gleridge In­ter­na­tional

The Compass - - Front Page - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON edi­[email protected]­n­com­pass.ca

A min­eral ex­plo­ration ac­cess road that’s gen­er­ated a lot of dis­cus­sion over the years re­cently re­ceived its fi­nal ap­proval from Holy­rood town coun­cil.

Fol­low­ing a lengthy backand-forth ex­change be­tween the mayor and a coun­cil­lor, Holy­rood town coun­cil gave its ap­proval to a min­eral ac­cess road near Big Tri­an­gle Pond that’s been in the works for over five years.

The vote was a close one, with coun­cil mem­bers vot­ing 4-3 in favour of the mo­tion to ap­prove the per­mit for the road, which would al­low Ea­gleridge In­ter­na­tional Ltd. to con­tinue min­eral ex­plo­ration work in the area. The ac­cess road has been the sub­ject of con­sid­er­able scru­tiny over the years, in­spir­ing pe­ti­tions and protests over con­cerns about the project’s po­ten­tial to neg­a­tively im­pact salmon and a wa­ter­shed area.

Ear­lier this fall, the Supreme Court of New­found­land and Labrador ruled the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment was in the wrong to try and restart the en­vi­ron­men­tal assess­ment process. The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment sub­se­quently in­di­cated it would not ap­peal the court rul­ing in favour of Ea­gleridge.

Prior to the vote at the Tues­day, Dec. 4 coun­cil meet­ing, there was a lengthy dis­cus­sion about how the ap­proval process was han­dled, with Coun. Jim Joy and Mayor Gary Goo­bie en­gaged in most of the talk­ing.

The ac­cess road per­mit ap­pli­ca­tion was unan­i­mously re­jected at a Feb. 17, 2015 coun­cil meet­ing. Af­ter a de­ci­sion of the East­ern Re­gional Ap­peal Board va­cated that de­ci­sion, an­other vote on the per­mit was held Nov. 4, 2015. This time it was granted ap­proval in prin­ci­ple by a vote of 5-2.

At Tues­day’s meet­ing, Joy ques­tioned how the ap­proval was han­dled. Town CAO Gary Cor­bett granted ini­tial ap­proval and cor­rected a claim made by Joy sug­gest­ing ap­proval in prin­ci­ple from 2015 was granted without con­di­tions. Cor­bett said stan­dard con­di­tions were ap­plied, such as meet­ing the re­quire­ments of pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment depart­ments. The CAO later noted some ad­di­tional con­di­tions sug­gested by coun­cil­lors were pre­sented to the town’s le­gal team and found to have “no teeth to them.”

“All the con­di­tions that were in­cluded in that ap­proval in prin­ci­ple were all the le­gal con­di­tions that the town had the au­thor­ity to put in, pe­riod,” Cor­bett said.

Joy asked why the fi­nal ap­proval wasn’t made the sub­ject of a pub­lic meet­ing. Mayor Goo­bie noted the CAO has the dis­cre­tion to grant ap­provals for per­mit ap­pli­ca­tions prior to a vote by coun­cil.

“Per­mits are is­sued here all the time,” he said. “Once the CAO deems that any ap­pli­cant has met the terms and con­di­tions set forth in the ap­proval in prin­ci­ple, the CAO has the au­thor­ity to is­sue the per­mit, and then it even­tu­ally comes to the coun­cil ta­ble and re-rat­i­fies the per­mit. What we’re do­ing here tonight is no dif­fer­ent than the past prac­tice we’ve been us­ing for the past sev­eral years.”

Goo­bie ac­knowl­edged work on the road had started about a day be­fore it was brought to his at­ten­tion and the CAOs. He said the pro­po­nent was un­der the im­pres­sion it could start the work un­der the ap­proval in prin­ci­ple and did not re­al­ize fur­ther ap­proval was needed. Ac­cord­ing to Goo­bie, the pro­po­nent was apolo­getic upon re­al­iz­ing the mis­take made. A per­mit was is­sued the fol­low­ing day.

“There was no other in­for­ma­tion that was shed on coun­cil af­ter the (court de­ci­sion), and I’m not go­ing to get into this — we’ve al­ready dis­cussed this with our le­gal team and what­not,” the mayor said Tues­day. “There was no new in­for­ma­tion that would change any­thing, and on that ba­sis, in ac­cor­dance with the terms and con­di­tions set out, par­tic­u­larly with the en­vi­ron­men­tal pre­view re­port and our de­vel­op­ment reg­u­la­tions, which were al­ready out­lined in the ap­proval in prin­ci­ple, there was no rea­son to pro­long is­su­ing that per­mit any longer.”

Joy who pre­vi­ously voted against the pro­posal twice in 2015 when he was the town’s deputy mayor, did so again on Tues­day, say­ing he re­mained op­posed to the project. Coun. Sadie King (who also re­jected the per­mit ap­pli­ca­tion twice in 2015) and Coun. Kevin Costello were the other two mem­bers to re­ject the ap­pli­ca­tion Tues­day.

CON­TRIB­UTED

The area of the min­eral ac­cess road, as orig­i­nally pro­posed by Ea­gleridge In­ter­na­tional in the reg­is­tra­tion for en­vi­ron­men­tal assess­ment with the prov­ince in Septem­ber 2013.

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON — THE COM­PASS

Holy­rood Mayor Gary Goo­bie, seated, and Coun. Jim Joy had a lengthy ex­change dur­ing the Tues­day, Dec. 4 coun­cil meet­ing about Ea­gleridge re­source ac­cess road.

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