Requiem for a small town: the decline of Kemptville

My Opinion


by Woody Armour

In the recent past, Kemptville had a small brickworks factory, a small pipe factory, a milk plant, a creamery, a maple syrup production unit, numerous cheese production sites, a cheese export business, and a popular agricultural college, and fair grounds. Today, we have none of these, they are all gone, as are the jobs. We do not even have exhibition grounds any more. However, we do have a fried chicken outlet, a couple of drive-thru car washes, some coffee shops, some new vinyl- housing sub divisions and a sewage plant that has overflowed, and, of course more debt.

Tourists and travellers coming off the main Highway stop for a coffee, then just keep going, bypassing “Old Town Kemptville”, despite thousands of dollars of municipal advertising to promote “the Old Town”. This “by-passing” situation leads to an interesting observation. In an attempt to re-vitalize the downtown sector, a publicly funded “Community Improvement Program” has been instituted. This program involves painting the exterior of certain buildings, and a few other cosmetic changes, with the expectation being that new businesses will rush into the area, given the attractions of the new paint and a temporary subsidized rent. And, of course, it is expected that the rural people, and tourists, will come to “Old Town Kemptville” to admire the new paint job. Where will they park?

This is the equivalent of putting make-up on a corpse and expecting a resurrection. It will not work. In this case, the municipal council is treating the symptoms, and not the underlying problem. Given that the area needs more than the casual minimum wage jobs provided by the service industries, what is truly amazing is that this council ignores the largest industry in the area, one that brings about 200 to 300 people per day into the area during week-ends, and somewhat fewer during the week days.

The equine industry purchases most of its inputs locally, and uses the local trades as needed. No other industry of comparable size achieves this, still, the council refuses to acknowledge this industry, nor any of the associated farming businesses.

Yet, despite this continuing decline of local industry, the council is very busy, motions are proposed, reports commissioned, and studies are done, surveys are instituted, taxes are raised, newspaper pictures are taken, but nothing truly useful for the community happens. If one visits council chambers, one finds lots of activity, nothing truly useful happens.

So a choice must be made between more of the vinyl village development, or more of a vibrant community development where growth and jobs comes from within and not via speculators.

Let us consider where this council has taken us. The mayor recently announced that the 30 million dollars in expected funding to build the Highway 43 expansion had been turned down for the third time. So, if the 30 million for the highway has been rejected, so has the 30 million for the new water treatment plant, as has the 40 million for the new sewage plant. This means the whole north-west quadrant plan is on indefinite hold, or cancelled.

This whole concept as outlined in the STANTEC REPORT, and which the council accepted as policy last winter, and for which “public information” hearings were held in February of 2016, “the north west quadrant development plan” thus became matter of official policy objectives and goals.

It is now a complete multi-million dollar failure as a program, due to the failure of funding. The over hyped “green and growing” program is now “brown and dead”. Indeed, the senior planning officer is no longer in office, the chief financial officer is no longer with us, and another financial officer has left. After spending large sums of money on this failed scheme, the council has no plans as to what to do next, yet they are still going to raise taxes.

There is an alternative to the current situation of decay and decline. I leave you to your thoughts.


  1. My wife and I (Orleans) have been waiting for nearly three years to move to and bring our spending power to Kemptville. The condominium that we supposedly purchased at Kemptville Landing is still nowhere to be found. Not even a shovel full of earth has yet been moved. Questions to council, municipal administration and the builder make it clear that there is not not much good will to make this project succeed. How better to foster and support the local economy than to add up to 100 new well off, mature families to the Old Town. What’s the problem? Why not start here?

  2. As usual Mr. Armour is confused and misinformed about who’s doing what and why downtown – not to mention the positive results. Contrary to his opinion piece, downtown has experienced a revival in the past six months. There’s been a flurry of ribbon-cutting as more and more small business owners are deciding that downtown is a good place to invest.
    The Kemptville Pop-Up Shop Program is the creation of the BIA, funded primarily by local private business and the federal government – less than 20% of the funding comes from the Municipality. The discounted rent that is offered to applicants to the Program comes from the community-minded building owners themselves; it’s not “subsidized” b the Municipality. This just one of the may things Mr. Armour gets wrong.

  3. The author clearly has political ambitions – or friends with same. If he intends to attract new cheese factories, plant flax and hew wood … good luck with that. But our economy is not what is was 100 years ago… so let’s hear those good ideas for our community! They are all welcome! But be careful as North Grenville is creative, positive and forward thinking and reacts well to hard work and good leadership. Council has provided much of that since our inception.

  4. Anthony Dowd,
    You may want to contact LA group regarding the Kemptville Landing project. I was informed this week the project is a no go. I to had given them a deposit thinking this was something that was going to come to fruition. This process has been very frustrating to say the least.

  5. I do not necessarily disagree with this article. I live right downtown but clearly see that there are vast differences between new commercial and residential developments along 43. A few niche market pop up shops or businesses that are ill advised investments and “ribbon cutting” does not equal a vibrant rebirth of the downtown.

    News that Kemptville flats will not materialize is further proof that some are beating a dead horse. Another issue: until there is winter parking downtown people will continue to leave. There is no place for those of us with limited parking and i know of others besides myself who are looking to other communities.

  6. Oh please try and bring the downtown to some degree of vibrancy.Love that town lived there decades ago .Surely some one can brain storm and safe the town people will move from Ottawa for a cheaper home put the word out it’s only a few minutes from Ottawa.

  7. It’s a nice idea to spruce up downtown. I hope that some funding get thrown that way.
    We could attract weekend drives etc. to downtown, but I don’t know anywhere near enough to know the economic results of this.
    I hope we do not become a bedroom community to Ottawa.
    Maybe we should try to attract high tech starts ups here, and be open to business for larger high tech to grow. This brings lots of wealth to a community, and housing made for people working in the community?


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