(Editor’s Note: This letter is in response to the April 27 Beacon Star article Condominium developer wants cap on salt pile height.)
I was surprised to read the comments in the Beacon Star that salt has been delivered to the Salt Dock Port for 45 to 50 years, as if that is the definitive statement to close down discussions on current use of the commercial wharf.
Actions taken 50 years ago have consequences today and Parry Sound bears strong witness to that statement: A contaminated waterfront left soiled by big oil companies. A waterfront with leases dedicated to offices for service personnel (MNR and OPP) instead of restaurants, shops or fish sales. Salt piles that have grown tremendously on the Wharf in the last couple of years since Sifto vastly expanded mining operations under Lake Huron. Other communities have resolved to find solutions to those 50-year-old actions. Working solutions that encourage tourism, retirement growth and economic development.
There is a reason why Parry Sound has an underdeveloped waterfront and far less wealth than other waterfront communities easily accessible to the GTA.
Many of those reasons are grounded in a series of actions decades old.
Today, towns along the American Great Lakes no longer allow Sifto to store salt on the waterfront. In fact, an x-mayor of a neighbouring Parry Sound municipality tells the story of being at the annual Good Roads Conference in Toronto hearing a Sifto employee remark, “I can’t believe how long we’ve gotten away with that pile of salt on the waterfront in Parry Sound.”
No one denies the need for salt on the roads. But there are questions about Sifto’s use of the dock. Sifto is a subsidiary of Compass Minerals. Prior to its American owner greatly expanding the Sifto mine in Goderich, the Parry Sound Salt Dock remained empty of salt for the summer. But since the mine’s $47 million expansion there has been an increase in annual capacity of the mine by approximately 750,000 tons. Goderich now mines 7.25 million tons annually. One can imagine that storage has become an issue for this multi-national American company. Since the expansion, one salt pile on Parry Sound’s Salt Dock in particular has been stored for at least three years. This original long-term stored pile is modest in height compared to the current piles added just weeks ago.
In the lease between Sifto and Parry Sound, Section 8 (b) Tenant’s Use of Wharf and Access Road it states: “The Landlord [the Town] shall give the Tenant [Sifto] the first priority to use the Wharf for the Tenant’s shipping purposes, over all other uses of the Wharf.” The wording does not say storage. In Section 8 (c) “The Tenant shall pay all operating costs related to the use of the Wharf as a shipping facility for salt and other roadway deicers.” Again, referring to the dock as a shipping dock not a storage dock.
There are tools to resolve usage between the tenant and its new neighbour (Granite Harbour). Under Section 17 Compliance with Regulations it states: “The Tenant [Sifto] shall in all respects abide by and comply with all applicable statues, regulations and by-laws, in any manner affecting the Leased Premises.”
By-laws are tools that a town or city use to craft solutions. Clearly, Parry Sound, desperate for money, running large deficits, offering no up-scale accommodation for retiring urban dwellers (until Granite Harbour) and operating the Charles W. Stockey Centre with an annual $300,000 deficit should be looking for solutions. Granite Harbour offers a tax base between $240,000 and $300,000, once all three-phases are completed. This is almost enough to make the Stockey Centre’s deficit a wash! The town should be considering by-laws that have height restrictions on the waterfront – why is Sifto allowed to be over its own previous highs? In fact, why is Sifto even storing salt on our waterfront? Sifto’s annual $75,000 lease payment to the Town is for shipping not storing. Salt is a contaminant to water. Already tarps on the extra high piles are splitting and the seams are emitting salt.
Under Section 52, Sodium Chloride and Other Roadway Deicers, the lease states: “The Landlord acknowledges that the Tenant will from time to time store sodium chloride and other roadway deicers on the Leased Premises and that notwithstanding the foregoing, that this is a permitted use under the terms of the lease.”
What does time-to-time mean? A bylaw could determine length of acceptable time that salt is temporarily stored on the shipping dock. How much time is needed for a multi-national company to store salt from delivery to truck removal on the Parry Sound Wharf? One week? Two weeks? Three weeks? Surely not years and months as is the current case? And if this is not resolved now, what will future expansion of the Goderich mine bring to Parry Sound?
I must disclose I am an owner at Granite Harbour. We bought initially believing our residency would be in the long-term but our unit was so beautiful we moved in immediately. Parry Sound needs this up-scale development. It needs Granite Harbour’s tax base to offset growing deficits. Equally as important Parry Sound needs ‘new blood’. Many communities are pulling out the red carpet to attract retirees from urban areas. Those young retirees have much to give as volunteers on local community boards and potential small business owners. New retirees would help spur the economy. Wealth is needed in Parry Sound to keep medical equipment current, to help the college grow, to keep businesses vibrant, to engage audiences for the Stockey, to maintain a pool (?) and to off-set the town’s growing deficit.
It’s time to use by-laws and common sense to sort co-habitation between an active commercial dock and a prime real estate location. There is no doubt common ground exists. With a bit of work, solutions that offer good outcomes for the next 50 years can be found.