CORNWALL, P.E.I. - The public meeting seemed far more combative than the hockey being played on the APM ice surface a floor below.
Exchanges were heated, with decorum and civility quickly dissipating throughout the night.
Rude interruptions became the rule rather than the exception.
Many in the packed room appeared hellbent on having their say – sooner rather than later –during a meeting that stretched into three hours of often un-neighbourly histrionics.
There was finger pointing, mutterings of disgust and animated rants criticized as grandstanding.
The cause of such uproar? A proposal to have a few horses and a barn blended into the landscape of the nearby scenic, rural community of Meadow Bank.
Ellen Jones had her dream business called Hughes-Jones Centre for People and Animals uprooted when the province expropriated her property to pave the way for construction of the Cornwall bypass.
She needed to take the government to court to get what she believed the property, which was home to her operation for 10 years, was worth. She was awarded nearly $300,000 in additional compensation for a total of $831,800.
But, she was not looking to get rich and ride off into the sunset.
The business, which incorporates horses in developing life skills, empowerment, esteem and leadership skills, is a heart-and-soul venture.
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Jones does not want to walk away from it.
She needs a new place, though, to park her horses and reboot her operation that has been in limbo for the past year.
She has found a special spot, she believes, along the Hyde Point Road.
There she proposes to relocate her six specially-trained horses, build a house, construct a 55-foot by 70-foot barn and get Hughes-Jones Centre for People and Animals up and running once again.
On Wednesday, she heard plenty of reasons that some Meadow Bank residents don’t want the operation galloping around their neck of the woods.
Concerns at the public information meeting to discuss Jones’s application to subdivide about 4.6 acres from a parcel of land for resource commercial use flew fast and furious.
What about increased traffic? It will be minimal, assured Jones.
Won’t that proposed domed barn be an eyesore? No, Larry Jones was quick to counter. The architect, who is also Ellen’s father, noted the slope of the land on the property in question will be used to make not only the barn, but the house, as invisible as possible,
OK, but horse manure really stinks, informed another worked-up individual. A concrete bin will be used to compost the equine droppings, Ellen explained.
“I want it to be a happy place for everybody,’’ she told her potential future neighbours.
Vote of confidence
Belinda Johnson of Charlottetown spoke up in defence of Ellen Jones at a public meeting held Wednesday night in Cornwall to discuss an application by Jones to subdivide a parcel of land in Meadow Bank to relocate her Hughes-Jones Centre for People and Animals. “I came (to the centre) as a client,’’ said Johnson. “I left as a friend. She does excellent work. There is value in having this business here (in Meadow Bank).’’
Ellen told The Guardian following the meeting that she was “a little surprised’’ by the intensity of opposition to her proposed use of the property. Still, she appreciates the protective stance taken by several people, including David Curley, who stood up to demand a democratic process be followed and stressed proper environmental assessments are paramount to protect and enhance land.
He told The Guardian that he did not learn enough at the meeting to make a full determination on the risks or merits of the proposed use of the property.
“It all comes down to weighing the pluses and the minuses,’’ he said.
Becky Mowat showed up armed with roughly 16 pages of concerns, including several fueled by legal interpretation of development regulations.
But pushed to get to the heart of her opposition, Mowat, who enjoys organic gardening, conceded all the concerns boil down to a simple fear of seeing her residential experience diminished.
“So, all I’m going to have is dust and dirt and traffic and smell,’’ she said.
“It is going to be detrimentally disruptive to our environment and our enjoyment of life.’’
Ellen appreciates the protectiveness expressed by the residents.
“If you look at that area, it has not had a lot of change,’’ said Ellen.
“If you’ve driven out to the property, it’s beautiful, it deserves to be protected…I should be held to an extremely high standard in doing this (development of the property).’’
Danny Cusack, provincial subdivision officer with the Department of Communities, Land and Environment, says the department will rule on the application within a month. Factors, he adds, such as possible conflicting land uses and potential detrimental impacts will be taken into consideration.
Whether the application is approved or rejected, there will be a 21-day period to appeal the decision to the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission.