“Thee Farm”: When a dream meets controversy

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A new development proposal is on the horizon for North Grenville, and no, it isn’t a residential neighbourhood. Instead, the property at 4100 County Road 43, owned by D&G Landscaping, is slated to be turned into a tourist hub if the needed approvals are passed by Council. The site has been given the name “Thee Farm”.

“There are applications for amendment to the North Grenville Official Plan and Zoning By-law that will enable the owner to change the use of the property to a rural tourism zone,” explained Don Stephenson, a representative of D&G Landscaping. “This would allow a banquet hall and some associated short term rental accommodation.”

There are big plans for the property. “A drive up the tree lined driveway immediately takes you back in time,” said Don. “A portion of the property had been used over the years as a residence, a farm, and a variety of small scale commercial ventures. Throughout the years, as the owners attended the site, they fell in love with the property. As the extraction (from onsite sandpits) continued, they enjoyed using the northern portion for their own personal enjoyment, as they and their family and friends began using it more for recreation and relaxation.”

After years of extraction, one of the sandpits on the property was nearly depleted, resulting in the formation of a large lake. The original barn that was on the property was torn down due to its age, and a new “barn‑like structure” was built in its place, complete with high end finishes and extensive landscaping. The feedback from the property owners’ friends and family was overwhelmingly positive. “With Kemptville being less than an hour by car from all parts of Ottawa, ‘Thee Farm’ could well be a destination for businesses and individuals from the Ottawa area, as well as from Leeds and Grenville. Visitors to the venue would undoubtably take the opportunity to shop or dine while they are in Kemptville.”

The site is now fitted with tennis and volleyball courts, and a beach area and dock were added adjacent to the newly created lake. Don stresses that respecting the neighbours has always been a priority for the owners of the property. An information session was held on March 26, and the formal planning meeting in which the amendment requests were considered was held on April 10. 

However, several neighbours of the property have raised concerns about the future plans for the site. Alicia Sabino explained that the property is currently considered a residential property, but it has been slowly turning into a “glamping” (glamorous camping) area and wedding venue. Alicia believes that this has been strategic on the part of D&G Landscaping, because it has been easier for them to get building permits for new structures while zoned residential. 

“There has been quite a lack of transparency on the part of the developer and the Municipality, which is very frustrating,” said Alicia. “The level of detail that has been provided in (municipal) notices has not been adequate.” She believes that there has not been much opposition from the community regarding the development because of the lack of detail, and now she and her neighbours fear it is too late to properly voice their concerns. 

“They’ve maneuvered through the by-laws,” Alicia added. “Even from the very first minor variance in the planning rationale, they do allude to future use of a wedding venue, so the fact that a lot of these changes have been made under the pretence that it’s just for personal use I don’t think is very genuine.” Alicia and her neighbours hope for an agreement to be reached in the matter that will be satisfactory to everyone. 

Mike Fox is another resident whose property is adjacent to “Thee Farm”. He explained that at the March 26 open house, it became clear that most of the neighbours are not very happy with the plans for the site. Mike’s home is closer to the back of the subject property, and his biggest concern is with the lake on the lot. He worries that the water sports that may take place on the lake while guests are “glamping” will be very disruptive. A request to allow only non‑motorized crafts on the lake was summarily rejected. 

“The biggest thing with this is process,” said Mike. “Maybe this was his plan all along.” The neighbours worry about the devaluation of their properties as a result of the future use of the property directly behind their homes. “We’ve already notified the Council that we intend to go to the Ontario Land Tribunal if they decide to pass this,” Mike added. 

Yet another neighbour, David Kurosky, agrees that processes are not being observed, and that transparency is lacking. He stresses that there are issues at hand that warrant further investigation, but no such investigation is happening. “The developer is the wind, the Municipality is the reed, and the reed is bending,” said David. 

Email exchange records obtained by the Times show that a second entrance to the property is the only traffic mitigation measure currently proposed. These records also allude to a hydrogeological report that was prepared to address concerns about well and septic system health, and residents’ concerns about noise are also addressed therein, with a reminder that new developments must follow existing municipal noise by-laws. A noise consultant has been hired, and additional measures are being considered to mitigate noise. The records further show that a 15 meter buffer between the Maplestone Community and the subject property will be put in place. 

The Municipality confirmed well in advance of the April 10 planning meeting that no decisions would be made regarding the property; the public meeting was intended as an opportunity for residents to voice concerns. The meeting could not be covered by deadline, but its highlights will be featured in the April 18 issue of the Times.

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