‘Risky and concerning’: Group opposes proposed industrial site along 1000 Islands Parkway

Kehoe Marine Construction – Photo submitted by Katherine Macklem

A controversial rezoning application by Kehoe Marine Construction has prompted an open letter currently circulating among officials and community members in the Thousand Islands region.

Kehoe Marina, a local staple along the stretch of the 1000 Islands Parkway, has applied to have its waterfront location rezoned into an industrial site.

Concern among some locals is mounting as those who live on or use the parkway for recreation wonder how this proposed rezoning may affect the culture, tourism, and environment within the Thousand Islands.

According to the Planning Justification Report submitted by Fotenn Planning + Design for the Zoning By-Law Amendment on June 6th, 2023:

“The project area…consists of multiple separate legal lots that will be merged through a concurrent process. The purpose of this application is to consolidate the zoning across the subject lands to recognize and allow the continued long-standing rural industrial and marine manufacturing use of the properties and to allow site improvements, open storage, and one new building for indoor storage.”

The Fotenn report outlines that “previous owners operated similar marine manufacturing uses on these lands dating back approximately 65 years. These lands are one of a very limited number of locations in the region that provide an opportunity for loading and off-loading of heavy construction materials for marine purposes.”

As a response to this development, an open letter written by Katherine Macklem and Robert Parson was sent out to elected officials of the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands and the Township’s Planning Technician.

The letter calls upon officials directly, stating: “You would put at risk fragile wetland ecosystems that right now contribute to flood control, clean water, and shoreline and storm protection. The potential for damage to these wetlands is dramatic, through noise and light pollution and materials seepage.”

The letter puts forth multiple questions for its recipients to consider, including “Do we want residents and visitors, people walking along the Thousand Islands Parkway path with children, elderly family members, their dogs, cyclists and runners, to encounter such increased truck traffic? Was the Thousand Islands Parkway designed to handle the increased traffic of construction trucks carrying tons of materials? Is that the intent of the Parkway? How safe is it to have increased heavy truck traffic along the Thousand Islands Parkway?”

When Thousand Islands resident Katherine Macklem first heard of these plans at a township meeting in March, she felt immediately concerned and knew she needed to learn more. Brockvilleist spoke with Macklem to understand why she decided to speak up and take action against the rezoning.

“There are two provincially significant wetlands adjacent to this site on either side of the property,” Macklem explained. “A wetland is a very fragile ecosystem. There are chemicals used in their construction work. I’m not a scientist but as a lay person, it seems very risky and concerning to have it so nearby.”

Brockvilleist also spoke with Susan Barton, a longtime business and property owner on the 1000 Islands Parkway. Susan and David Barton were the previous owners of the KAO campground, which is right across the road from the Kehoe site.

Susan and her husband, along with her mother and father, bought their property across from Kehoe in 1987. They lived and worked there for 32 years before selling in 2018.

When the Bartons heard of the prospect of rezoning, they also felt compelled to write a letter of opposition to the township. In the letter provided to Brockvilleist, the couple writes, “We are still local business owners and we do not disagree with progress, only that as progress is made it is mindful of future generations, the health and welfare of our citizens, and with that comes retaining the area’s natural beauty and delicate ecosystems.”

“I sent the letter to all the councillors, except one councillor and the mayor who was recused at the time the letter was sent,” Susan Barton shared. “I also sent the letter to the town planning technician, Megan Shannon, so it became part of the public record. MPP Steve Clark also received a copy.”

The letter explains that “the original industrial zoning change was granted to Williams Marine because it was presented as a small manufacturing business that would employ family mainly during the winter months, with the marina employing during the summer months. Although there were concerns regarding the official plan, area residents did not object because the scope of the business presented was low impact.”

They conclude that “we need to ensure the future of our community is the one we want and that we are not continuing to make bad decisions because of a zoning change made 30 years ago when we could not foresee what the future would bring.”

Screengrab from Fotenn planning bylaw report

Todd Perry, vice president of Kehoe Marine Construction, confirmed with Brockvilleist that an environmental impact assessment was a requirement of the application process, which has now been completed, peer reviewed and accepted. When asked about the potential benefits to rezoning the property, Perry explained that “rezoning will properly address the needs of the business while ensuring that the township has some ability to control what we do on the site.”

Perry explained that “our message to the public is that we’re trying to do everything right. The township and other agencies have been clear in their expectations of us, and we’re working to ensure that all agencies and levels of government are happy with how we’re doing what we’re doing.”

Regardless of the outcome, Katherine Macklem wants to encourage others to speak their mind and share their viewpoints on the ongoing discussion.

“It can be a little daunting at times but I think it’s really important to let the elected officials know what people are feeling,” she said. “Lots of people call this place their special place and whether they live here full-time or not, I think that the township council should hear from them.”

Brockvilleist will continue to report on this story as more information becomes available.

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