Forestry pro­posal re­dun­dant as Port Bland­ford confident re­zon­ing will block cutting

Pub­lic meet­ing sees end of Cit­i­zens Against Clearcutting’s ac­tive in­volve­ment in is­sue

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Front page - BY JONATHAN PAR­SONS Jonathan.par­sons@thep­acket.ca Twit­ter: @je­j­par­sons

While the Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Land Re­sources have sent a re­vised pro­posal to Port Bland­ford res­i­dents, the Town says the re­vi­sions largely don’t mat­ter — as re­zon­ing in the com­mu­nity should be able to block any po­ten­tial clearcutting in their area.

While the crowd at the pub­lic meet­ing on Tues­day, May 8, in the Port Bland­ford Le­gion was de­cid­edly smaller than the pre­vi­ous meet­ings, the res­i­dents seemed largely pleased with the route they’ll be tak­ing go­ing for­ward.

The re­vised pro­posal sent by the province in­cluded some ex­panded buf­fer zones, an­nual re­views and early re­for­esta­tion, how­ever, those in at­ten­dance seemed less than pleased with this po­ten­tial route. While the plan also pro­posed to pro­tect views­capes in the South­west River Val­ley, ac­cord­ing to a map at the meet­ing, many were skep­ti­cal about the claims.

“It’s al­most laugh­able,” said com­mit­tee mem­ber Cliff Matthews at the meet­ing.

He went on to say that the pro­posal to the com­mit­tee doesn’t re­ally mean any­thing, as there will be no clearcutting hap­pen­ing in the area. He said that by re­zon­ing the ar­eas within town boundaries, no cutting can take place, and no ac­cess roads can be used to get to cutting ar­eas in the South­west River Val­ley out­side the town lim­its.

“Our mayor and coun­cil will not is­sue any per­mits for any har­vest­ing of any kind in the pro­posed area … And I can’t see them go­ing in there with he­li­copters for a few sticks of wood.”

Port Bland­ford Mayor Chad Hol­loway ex­plained to the peo­ple that due to the re­zon­ing process that has al­ready be­gun, he thinks it’s un­likely any­one will be able to ac­cess any of the ar­eas near Port Bland­ford for the pur­poses of clearcutting.

When the re­zon­ing process takes place within town boundaries, not only will no cutting be able to be done within the lim­its, but Hol­loway ex­plains that two ac­cess roads in the town cre­ated by Nal­cor will not be able to be used for clearcutting pur­poses ei­ther, likely pre­vent­ing cutting out­side of the mu­nic­i­pal bound­ary as well. The roads were put in place only for one per­mit­ted use — ac­cess by­pass road for trans­mis­sion lines — and can’t be used as re­source roads.

“The ma­jor­ity of what they’re look­ing at har­vest­ing is ac­tu­ally within the mu­nic­i­pal bound­ary … for them to be able to ac­cess even the wood (out­side the bound­ary) they would have to go through the mu­nic­i­pal bound­ary to get that,” ex­plained Mayor Hol­loway.

The mayor broke down the steps for re­zon­ing, in­clud­ing what they’ve al­ready com­pleted — a res­o­lu­tion by coun­cil to start the process, a meet­ing with the plan­ner, and pub­lic ad­ver­tis­ing for con­sul­ta­tion.

He says they planned to adopt the amend­ment on May 16, fol­lowed by a pub­lic no­tice of the amend­ment. That will be fol­lowed by a com­mis­sioner hear­ing and an ap­proval of that re­port, only re­quired if met with op­po­si­tion. Then there is the sub­mis­sion to government for re­view and reg­is­tra­tion.

Af­ter that, the coun­cil can ap­prove the amend­ment and it can be gazetted. Once re­zoned, the area will only have the per­mit­ted uses re­cre­ation open space, out­door as­sem­bly and con­ser­va­tion. He says this will al­low for fur­ther tourism de­vel­op­ment like hik­ing trails, pic­nic ar­eas and cross-coun­try ski­ing.

Mayor Hol­loway also says that while this process of re­zon­ing is go­ing through its steps, no clearcutting will be able to hap­pen and in the Ur­ban and Ru­ral Plan­ning Act, the re­zon­ing could be drawn out for a long time.

“Noth­ing can hap­pen while re­zon­ing process goes on.

“De­vel­op­ment reg­u­la­tions the town was given by the au­thor­ity of the provin­cial government to ev­ery mu­nic­i­pal­ity in this province whereby we have mu­nic­i­pal plans and de­vel­op­ment reg­u­la­tions to man­age what’s in­side of our bor­ders … it doesn’t mat­ter who you are, if you vi­o­late our de­vel­op­ment reg­u­la­tions, there’s av­enues there to stop it.”

The mayor added an im­por­tant note regarding the pro­posal, say­ing the en­tire pro­posal and ne­go­ti­a­tion process was be­tween the Cit­i­zens Against Clearcutting com­mit­tee and the province — the town was not in­volved and can con­tinue with the re­zon­ing sep­a­rate from any other plans.

“Had we en­tered into ne­go­ti­a­tions with government, that would’ve re­ally hurt our re­zon­ing op­tion,” said Hol­loway.

When asked if the provin­cial government could block the re­zon­ing process, Mayor Hol­loway re­it­er­ated that there is no prece­dent for government de­part­ments to do some­thing like that when it is not the wishes of the peo­ple, and would be merely for the government’s own gain. He’s also talked to other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and hasn’t found any in­di­ca­tion the province would do that, es­pe­cially since they’ve seen no ma­jor, co­or­di­nated op­po­si­tion from peo­ple within Port Bland­ford who de­bated the is­sue.

“When a re­zon­ing goes in, and we’ve done sev­eral in the com­mu­nity now, and government has never come back and tried to stop a re­zon­ing,” said Mayor Hol­loway.

He adds the only in­stance he could imag­ine that would stop a re­zon­ing would be if coun­cil was not act­ing in the in­ter­est of its cit­i­zens, pos­si­bly act­ing as part of a con­flict of in­ter­est.

“If the peo­ple of a com­mu­nity wants to re­zone an area to help en­hance the tourism prod­uct in their area that sup­ports over 100 jobs in their com­mu­nity and the government ba­si­cally says ‘No, be­cause we want to bring in a cou­ple of har­vesters and flat­ten it all,’ — then I said it be­fore and I’ll say it again, it’s a very dif­fi­cult thing to bring to the bal­lot box.”

As for the mem­bers of the Port Bland­ford Cit­i­zen Against Clearcutting, they say they will take a break while the town con­tin­ues to work to re­zone the ar­eas within the boundaries.

How­ever, they say they are not dis­solv­ing, and if they’re needed, they’ll take up the man­tle.

While there were some dis­agree­ments at the meet­ing on Tues­day that there was mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion from the group, the peo­ple in at­ten­dance were thank­ful for the tire­less work of the com­mit­tee mem­bers.

The com­mit­tee says they ac­com­plished what they set out to do — pre­vent clearcutting in their com­mu­nity. They thanked com­mit­tee mem­bers, res­i­dents, the mayor and coun­cil and Op­po­si­tion MHA Jim Lester, who pre­sented their pe­ti­tion in the House of As­sem­bly.

“We fought for this for a rea­son,” said Matthews to the crowd.

“Ev­ery­body in this room should walk through this town with their head up,” added com­mit­tee mem­ber Garfield White. “Be­cause other towns got the same is­sues we’ve got, and they never done what we did.

“And you can’t do things by your­self, this is a com­mu­nity thing … it was un­real the support we had as a com­mit­tee and we re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate it.”

JONATHAN PAR­SONS PHOTO

The pub­lic meet­ing in Port Bland­ford on Tues­day, May 8. Here, Cliff Matthews ad­dresses those in at­ten­dance.

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