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In what some council members said was a very tough decision, the Municipality of Argyle voted Tuesday night to support a development agreement for a sea cucumber pharmaceutical processing facility in the Tusket business park.
The result was tight – five council members voting in support of granting the development agreement, four voting against it.
Residents living near the project site have expressed concern about the proposal, worrying about its environmental impact, and a good number of them turned out for a special Argyle council meeting where the project was discussed.
For more on the project, click here.
Members of the public were given an opportunity to speak during the first part of the Nov. 20 meeting. Those who spoke reiterated concerns about how the proposed facility could impact them, the biggest issue being a potential foul odour.
Those who oppose the project have said they are not against business or economic development, but they feel this type of operation should be in another location.
The business park is near a residential park that was developed in around 2009. There are seven family homes in the residential park.
The project’s developer, Jules LeBlanc, president of Ocean Pride Fisheries in Wedgeport, has said he is confident the Tusket facility would not be a nuisance.
He said he chose the Tusket site for several reasons, including the availability of water and sewer services, its proximity to a major highway and the various amenities in the Tusket area. He also wanted the new business to be as close to home as possible.
The project is expected to create eight to 10 jobs initially, with another eight to 10 in the second phase, according to an assessment of the proposal prepared recently for Argyle council. Jobs would include mechanical and lab technicians, engineers and support staff, the report said.
For those against the proposal, there are too many uncertainties. The agenda for Tuesday’s special council meeting included the reading of a letter from Matthew and Krista O’Connell, owners of one of the lots in the Tusket park, who said the risks of the project “far outweigh the benefits.” Among other things, they expressed concern about how the development could diminish property values.
On the other side, proponents say much effort has gone into mitigating any issues associated with the project and that the development agreement is solid. An odour problem could result in the operation being shut down.
Prior to Tuesday’s special council meeting, it was not known for sure if councillors would vote on the project that night, but they did, with the development agreement being approved by a 5-4 margin.
Council actually made two motions. The first, which would have rejected the development agreement, was defeated. The next motion, which was to support the agreement, passed.
Those voting in favour of the agreement were Warden Richard Donaldson and councillors Lucien LeBlanc, Calvin d’Entremont, Kathy Bourque and Glenn Diggdon. Those who voted against it were Deputy Warden Danny Muise and councillors Guy Surette, Nicole Albright and Roderick (Junior) Murphy.
Prior to the actual vote, council members had a chance to express how they felt about the project. A recurring theme was the need to try to balance economic development with the concerns of residents and their right to a good quality of life.
Councillors Nicole Albright and Kathy Bourque – who found themselves on opposite sides in the final vote – perhaps best summed it up.
Albright called it a “difficult decision ... We’ve all been torn.” She sided with the residents. Bourque said having to choose one side over the other was “tearing my heart ... (but) I have confidence in Jules.”