by Deron Johnston
For the past year, negotiations between the Municipality of North Grenville and the provincial government over the municipality’s desire to acquire the lands of the former Kemptville College, appeared to have been reduced to a painfully slow grind. The municipality had expressed its disappointment and frustration with the lack of significant progress on the Kemptville College file. With multiple provincial ministries involved during the process, it had become mostly a waiting game for the municipality.
The former Kemptville College potentially represents an incredible opportunity from an economic development perspective (through the business plan that the municipality had paid a consultant to develop) and from the perspective of a significant potential tax revenue increase if viable businesses, agencies or organizations buy into the municipality’s vision of the future of the College property.
At one point, a couple of months ago, we were preparing to write about the very real possibility that the acquisition simply might not happen. The hope then was that, despite not being able to acquire the lands, the municipality could still benefit from another organization owning it. There would still, potentially, be an increase in tax revenue, possible job opportunities for residents, and other economic development benefits from having a campus full of viable tenants, it just wouldn’t have been as much of a benefit than if the municipality had acquired the property itself.
During this past Monday night’s Committee of the Whole meeting, North Grenville Chief Administrative Officer Brian Carré (who leads the negotiations for North Grenville) was asked for an update on the municipality’s efforts to acquire the lands. Brian revealed that, approximately four weeks ago, there had been very productive discussions between the municipality and the provincial government. He believed that, with this new movement on the file, he was hopeful that negotiations would be concluded by the end of the year and that the municipality would emerge successful. The CAO concluded by saying that he was unable to provide any further information because of the non-disclosure agreement that was part of the negotiation process.
On Tuesday morning, during a conversation with Mayor David Gordon, he was asked why he felt that things had taken such a sudden positive turn. The Mayor believed that there’s been a very recent and positive change in the dynamics of the negotiations. He hoped that, through various conversations that he has had with provincial government officials over the past couple of years, they were now able to better understand North Grenville’s position and frustration with the lack of meaningful progress. With this new dynamic, he felt that the negotiations were able to move forward at a much faster pace, compared to previous efforts to that point.
Throughout this whole process, there’s been little or no information provided to the public on the details of the negotiations to acquire the former college, because of the non-disclosure agreement between the province and the municipality. Almost like a child sitting in the back seat of a car, who can’t see what’s happening on the road ahead, residents have been asking for many miles now, “Are we there yet?” Maybe now we can finally believe the municipality when they say, “Not much further now”.