Sackville Town Council took the first step tonight in approving a small-scale slaughterhouse at 72 Crescent Street.
In a split 4-2 vote, a majority of councillors voted to give first reading (preliminary approval) to municipal plan and zoning changes that would allow for an abattoir in an intensive use zone within Sackville’s industrial park.
Councillors Shawn Mesheau, Bill Evans, Andrew Black and Allison Butcher voted in favour of proceeding to the next stage in January while Councillors Michael Tower and Bruce Phinney voted against.
However, instead of giving the customary first and second readings to the necessary changes, council also approved Shawn Mesheau’s proposal to delay second reading until next month to allow him more time to gather additional information.
Councillor Evans read a lengthy statement in which he acknowledged the dozens of objections councillors received to the proposed slaughterhouse, but added that council needed to make decisions in the interests of the entire municipality.
“While dozens of messages, and all of them against something, is significant,” he said, “we need to be aware that it represents less than one per cent of our constituents.”
Evans said that although it’s important to preserve the quality of life in Sackville, it’s also important to consider the importance of business and economic development.
“I myself have said that I consider Sackville to be open for business,” he said. “What that means for me is that my initial response is positive when people say they want to start or expand a business in Sackville. Business development can mean more jobs, more tax revenue and add to the vitality of our town.”
Evans suggested that people’s legitimate concerns about smells, noises, potential contamination of soil, water or the town’s sewage system can be addressed through a development agreement with the local farmer who wants to build the slaughterhouse.
He also referred to the many health regulations that would govern its operation.
To read Evans’s statement, click here.
Councillor Allison Butcher said she agreed with everything in Evans’s statement.
Councillor Mesheau wondered whether there could be more consultations with residents in the area.
“Does the opportunity exist to engage citizens further within the buffering areas — Charles Street, Beal Heights, St. James, those areas — between the planning commission and maybe the developer and possibly the licensing folks to get a better opportunity to get more information and be better informed on this as a council?” Mesheau asked.
Acting Mayor Ron Aiken responded that he personally felt there had been lots of time for public input.
“We’ve been accepting letters well after the deadline,” he said, “and most of them came in after that point so there’s been some leeway on that one,” he said, adding that additional delays could be unfair to the developer.
Councillor Michael Tower suggested that at least some of the 27 other smaller slaughterhouses in the province had been located in agricultural zones farther away from residential areas.
But town planner Lori Bickford responded that Sackville’s zoning bylaw states explicitly that abattoirs are not considered an agricultural use.
“You would be looking at opening it up to a much larger area of the town,” she added.
Later when I asked during the public question period, why the developer has not given information about the financial scope of the project, the number of animals to be killed, the volume of trucks needed to dispose of slaughterhouse wastes and whether he has found a licensed disposal facility, Acting Mayor Aiken replied that the project is still in its early stages and regulatory arrangements with federal and provincial agencies still have to be worked out.
“All the questions you’re asking are ones that I don’t think we can know right now,” he added. “We’re just at the initial stages of this and I suspect more information will become available as it moves along.”
Lori Bickford added that before the developer works out licensing arrangements with various government agencies, he needs to know first whether town council will support changes to the municipal plan and zoning bylaws that would be needed before he can proceed.