by Nancy Peckford
Earlier this week, Council began the process of seeking input from our community on additional uses for the provincially owned, 182-acre parcel of farm-side lands formerly owned by Kemptville College – located across from the Kemptville Campus.
These lands are also the site where the provincial correctional facility – which was announced by the Ford government in August 2020 – is also slated to go. Some have assumed that any other uses for these farmlands is impossible given the future plans for the Correctional facility. This isn’t true.
The former Kemptville College farmside lands are comprised of a large 182 acre parcel, including several buildings and barns. These lands are separate and apart from the 626 acres of land that the Municipality purchased in 2018, now known as Kemptville Campus. This Campus property is fully owned by the municipality and is managed by a not-for-profit board comprised largely of community leaders from North Grenville. The property includes croplands, wetlands, greenhouses, an 18 acre sugarbush, many walking trails and approximately 17 buildings.
Currently, there are over 600 students from JK to grade 12 attending French and English schools on the campus. The Campus greenhouses have seen new life through the efforts of the Campus’ wonderful volunteer coordinator Claude Smith, and a University of Ottawa bio-tech firm.
The Campus’ evolution as a municipal asset represents tremendous possibility for our community’s economic development, educational options and recreational experiences, including Kemptville Live and the upcoming International Plowing Match in September 2022.
Incidentally, I have three children who attend school on the Campus. I am deeply committed to seeing the full leveraging of these Campus lands, including the return of key agriculture and related apprenticeship programs that offer critical skills-building opportunities. In collaboration with provincial Ministers Steve Clark and Monte McNaughton, TR Leger High School and the other boards, we are making that happen.
Not unlike the Campus, Council also clearly recognizes that the farmside property has great community value – given its 100-year history with the Kemptville College. As plans for the Correctional facility evolve, it is crucial that the significant remaining farmside lands and buildings not required by the Correctional facility be transferred as quicky as possible to the municipality.
In discussions with the Solicitor General and her officials since August 2020, this has been Council’s resounding message – and the Ministry has written a letter highlighting their intent to make this possible.
We know that the remaining farmside lands not used by the Correctional facility can serve as a dynamic space for community-driven agriculture and related initiatives, including public access gardens, equine activities, exciting new technologies for food production such as vertical growing, as well as other sustainability initiatives.
I fully understand the concerns some in our community have regarding the building of the correctional facility in North Grenville. However, the reality is that Council was not consulted on the Province’s plan to build the correctional facility. Further, the Province has not given any indication that the project will not be completed in 2027 as identified in the August 2020 announcement.
Before I was elected as Mayor, I didn’t always fully appreciate the limits to municipal authority. On more than one occasion, I have wished it was different. This said, Council is working hard with our talented municipal staff team to adopt higher standards for how development happens.
With new tools, we can take every opportunity to ensure that our community receives the greatest benefit possible from new developments. In this respect, it is our full responsibility to ensure we do everything in our power to be as proactive as possible with the farmside lands.
This is why when it comes to the correctional facility, Council is focused on where we can make meaningful progress. The community engagement session hosted this week is the beginning of an ongoing dialogue about how we can forge exciting partnerships and leverage parts of the farmside property in ways that reflect the needs and priorities of North Grenville.
The promotion of physical and mental health should be woven throughout – and innovation and collaboration will be key. If you weren’t able to join the community meeting, please take the time to complete our survey to share your ideas about the farmside lands at www.northgrenville.ca/localgreen