A rendering of the “Auto Port” portion of proposed intermodal transportation hub off Dever Road (City of Saint John Image)

A public hearing and discussion that stretched into just over three hours last night has resulted in first and second readings to zoning changes required for a proposed intermodal transportation park off Dever Road. J-D Irving is proposing the upgrade to its existing rail yard to handle growing container traffic through the city. It also includes plans for an “Auto Port” to handle transportation of new vehicles from automakers to dealers in the region. The proposal also includes a new community park. The transportation park is expected to create 47 new jobs.

A number of residents spoke against the proposal concerned about truck traffic and noise resulting from increased train traffic and shunting of rail cars. Proponents including Port Saint John – Envision Saint John – and CP Rail talked about increased economic development and a positive environmental impact because the double stacked container rail cars reduce the number of long haul trucks on the road.

The hearing also highlighted some ruffled feathers around the City’s Planning Advisory Committee table. P-A-C chair Alexandra Weaver Crawford was apparently caught off guard by staff recommendations to Council that didn’t reflect the intent of the Committee’s approval with conditions. Weaver Crawford says she has been contacted by one P-A-C member who indicated they would not have voted in favour of the project. She also indicated her vote might not have been in favour as did member Anne McShane who also spoke last night. The members felt they did not receive all of the information used by City staff to draft recommendations to Council.

A number of Councillors focused on the concerns about noise from the proposed operation and after much discussion and questions to staff – approved first and second readings of the required zoning changes. But Council also asked the City Manager to prepare a report on the noise concerns to be presented prior to dealing with third and final reading of the required zoning. That is expected to happen at the next Council meeting.