"When the city arbitrarily and intentionally devalues
the property and takes that equity away, that’s theft."


Reported in ...
 

The Stittsville News

 



May 3, 2005

Letter: Heritage farm threatened by city land grab

Dear Editor:

One hundred and sixty years. Eight generations. That’s how long our farm has been in continuous operation. It is one of the most historically significant farmsteads in Goulbourn Township. It was a century farm owned by many generations of the Jinkinson family, and has been farmed by my family for the last 34 years.
            But all this is being threatened by a land reclassification by the City of Ottawa. Suddenly, after all these years, they’ve decided that this is “wetland”, not farmland. Maybe we should be raising ducks, not cattle!
            This is MY land, not theirs. That’s why I refused to give them permission to come onto my property to study it. But instead of taking no for an answer, they rented a plane and conducted a low level (1000 ft) secret surveillance last September. Is this an invasion of privacy or what. They did not inform any of the landowners of their tactics, and only after the study had been completed and approved for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, did they invite the affected landowners to an “information meeting” to discuss their plans. At this point it was already a done deal. It seems to me that the meeting should have been held before the study, not after it was completed.
            By using three-year-old air photos and computer “spy-ware”, they claim to have identified the types of vegetation growing on the land. When asked at the meeting to provide a list of the species they found, they refused.
            These year(s)-old air photos are obsolete, as we have spent the last three years clearing and renovating trees knocked down and damaged in the ice storm of ’98. The landscape is dramatically different now than it was three years ago. But this is beside the point. They were denied permission to study my PRIVATE PROPERTY, but they went ahead and did it anyway, without my knowledge or permission.

 
 
There seems to be a definite feeling amongst these landowners that this (intended) “land grab” is simply to compensate for all of the development that has taken place on the existing wetlands in Stittsville. The Timbermere and Deer Run subdivisions are two examples, not to mention the shopping complex at Brown’s Your Independent Grocer. By establishing “new” wetlands, they hope to relieve some of the pressure brought upon them.

 
 


            The area we are talking about consists of approximately 850 acres, 20 of which are on our farm. Sixty landowners are affected directly but hundreds more are affected indirectly by the inevitable devaluation of their properties. Many of these landowners have invested their life savings, or have been building a “nest egg” for their retirement years. With one swipe of their pen, the city has destroyed their dreams and plans.
            I can’t speak for the others, but I know that we have invested in excess of one million dollars into our farming operation. If the city thinks we are going to sit back and let them take it all away, the can think again.
            They tell us that existing farming operations can continue without charge. But we all know that once the wetland classification has been established, it is only a matter of time before the nuisance complaints will begin.
            Have they no respect for PRIVATE PROPERTY at all. This is MY land. I bought and paid for it. They didn’t.
            When asked about the obvious devaluation of our properties, they smugly said there would be no devaluation. When asked if they were prepared to pay compensation, they said absolutely not.
            What part of “NO” don’t they understand? How can they sleep at night, knowing they have just destroyed the lives of sixty families? Their hopes, dreams and plans have suddenly been erased.
            Many of these landowners have built up considerable equity in their property. When the city arbitrarily and intentionally devalues the property and takes that equity away, that’s theft.
            There seems to be a definite feeling amongst these landowners that this (intended) “land grab” is simply to compensate for all of the development that has taken place on the existing wetlands in Stittsville. The Timbermere and Deer Run subdivisions are two examples, not to mention the shopping complex at Brown’s Your Independent Grocer. By establishing “new” wetlands, they hope to relieve some of the pressure brought upon them.
            There is a revolution growing amongst the rural landowners in this province. Rural landowners have had it up to here with all of the bureaucratic interference and red tape. They have been pushed to the limit.
            Those of you who are history buffs will recall that the American Civil War was fought over this very issue. The North tried to take the land from the South, and one of the bloodiest battles in history resulted, pitting friend against friend and brother against brother. Don’t think it can’t happen here because it can. Taking a man’s land is about as serious as you can get.
            The city officials tell us that our land will not drop in value. If you believe that then you’ll believe anything. They tell us that we can’t reclassify or develop our own land without their approval but that they can reclassify our land without our approval. That’s hardly fair.
            Three weeks ago on April11, 2005 the Council of Agusta Township passed a resolution amending its Zoning by-law and Official Plan. The resolution stated: “Whereas an individual cannot re-designate or rezone the use of his/her private property without written consent and approval of the municipality, it is a fundamental requirement that the municipality not rezone or designate the use and opportunities of private land without  the landowner’s prior written approval and consent. This principal can only be abridged for the public good, with fair, just and timely compensation.”
            This concept is being pursued in all jurisdictions throughout the province of Ontario. The rights of property owner must be respected. It is THEIR property, not the municipalities.
            There should be no reclassification without the owner’s approval, and if reclassification occurs, then fair and just compensation should be paid to the owner.
            It is my contention that this wetland evaluation is seriously flawed.
            To consider classifying 20 acres of active farmland, land that is dry the majority of the farming season, as a provincially significant wetland is preposterous. Our cattle graze this land, including the alleged “wetland” throughout the summer season. This land has produced one of the top Herford herds in Ontario, including a Royal Winter Fair Grand Champion. It has been in continuous operation for 160 years.
            The city is dead wrong in their pursuit of this reclassification and should do the right and honourable thing by stopping it right now before it goes any further.
            They have a greater responsibility to their constituents than they do to the provincial government. They tell us that they can’t and that they must do the province’s bidding.
            Well, as far as I can see, if they can’t DO anything, then why do we need them?

Terry Hale
Applewood Farms
Fernbank
Goulbourn


 

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