This farm is part of the 654-hectare urban expansion imposed by Minister Clark on November 4th. The latter decided to unilaterally revise Ottawa’s official plan to add more land, one of many controversial decisions taken by the Progressive Conservative government to stimulate housing supply.
Although the municipal council had already approved the addition of 1281 hectares, after long debates, in 2021, the farm land on watts had never been part of the discussions to allow residential development there. The reason: Ontario’s planning policies that require good farmland to be protected.
In this rural and peaceful setting, where the pine trees bordering Cardinal Creek nearby hide the rows of houses just half a kilometer away in the Orleans district, the lack of potential for residential development seemed quite obvious when the city council made its decision, in February 2021.
The farm was however finally purchased, in August 2021, by the company 1177 Watters Developments Ltd for $12.7 million, the equivalent of $139,382 per acre.
According to company records, all five directors are part of the concrete group of companies Verdi Alliance. The five men donated a combined $12,315 to the Progressive Conservatives, in 2021 and 2022.
129 hectares of agricultural land are disappearing every day
CBC/Radio-Canada attempted to contact the company’s administrators, but received no response.
Questions to Minister Clark’s office about the farm, including a perception of conflicts of interest and developer lobbying related to other parcels added to Ottawa’s urban boundaries by the province also went unanswered.
Meanwhile, in the Greater Toronto Area, the province is facing criticism for proposing to open up its greenbelt to housing, including repealing a law that protects some 2,000 hectares of farmland, nearly Pickering.
According to Emily Sousa, agricultural policy analyst at the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (FAO), the government
take steps back and chooses new housing over future food security, when he should be able to do both.
Townhouses built in November 2022 in the Findlay Creek neighborhood on the edge of Ottawa’s urban area, where formerly agricultural land has just been added for future development.
Photo: Radio-Canada / Kate Porter
Current land use policy directs municipalities to build efficiently near public transportation and infrastructure and to avoid urbanization of agricultural land. But the province doesn’t seem to follow its own rules or listen to the CAM or municipalities, believes Ms. Sousa.
The analyst points out that Ontario is losing 129 hectares of farmland every day, according to Statistics Canada’s latest agricultural census. Not only is the disappearance of this land accelerating, but farming itself is becoming more difficult as urban sprawl increases and farm vehicles mix with traffic on country roads, she says. .
It’s disturbing on many levels.Judge Ms. Sousa.
What’s scary about the rate of farmland loss and these seemingly small decisions to add a little bit of land here and there is the cumulative impact it has over time.
$40 million in land purchases at Findlay Creek
Land speculation is not new.
Buyers have historically acquired rural land on the outskirts of cities years or decades in advance, expecting that one day neighborhoods will expand and once-rural land will rise in value.
It’s also no surprise that landowners are fighting to have their properties placed within city limits. At town hall meetings in 2020 and 2021, the owners made their case to Ottawa city councilors and – as a provincial registry shows – hired lobbying firms to speak to the minister himself.
To find some of the biggest winners from Minister Clark’s decision, take to the streets bank heading south from Ottawa until you reach the countryside and the booming neighborhood of Findlay Creek.
Well-known local promoters like Claridge Homes, Urbandale, richcraft and Multivesco, as well as the owner of the local golf club Patterson Groupasked a joint committee, in January 2021, to let them
finish the neighborhood of Findlay Creek to the path Hawthorne.
Property records show that if Claridge bought plots as early as 2006, the four developers bought more than half the land in 2019 alone. Together, they paid over $40 million.
But initially, these lands failed to find a place within the urban area decided by the Ottawa City Council. City staff rated these plots poorly, saying that transit and water infrastructure would be too expensive. Moreover, the plot of Claridge – the southernmost – is too close to an active quarry.
Still, Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing this month authorized an additional 257 hectares within the city’s urban limits.
Some of these same developers have also spent tens of millions to purchase 175 hectares north of Kanata in the South Marchwhich were also added by the province.
Businesses ClaridgeMultivesco, eQ Homes, Uniform Developments and Minto released a statement when the town committee traded their lands in favor of tewinin 2021, despite being given high marks by city staff, but declined to comment for today’s story.
Now their lands have been incorporated into the urban boundaries of Ottawa.
Suburban growth is exploding
The divide between city and country can be stark.
where the street bank meets the countryside Findlay Creekfor example, townhouses are being built, as a barn falls into disrepair behind them.
The area has become very dense, notes Mariam Zeitoun, who has lived there for a dozen years – and she is not wrong.
The City of Ottawa’s annual development report shows that the population of the Ottawa region Findlay Creek grew by 6,754 people over five years to reach 16,038 people in 2021, more than double the size of Perth.
Findlay Creek resident Mariam Zeitoun
Photo: Radio-Canada / Kate Porter
Residents say the community is supportive of welcoming new families, but they also note that the elementary school playground is filled with portable classrooms and traffic on the street bank and the Albion path gets worse. The neighborhood has no community center, library, or recreation center.
The lands of Findlay Creek newly added are nearly five kilometers from the future light rail station of Leitrim. Ms. Zeitoun believes the region needs more public transport, as she has to drive her oldest children to work and university every day.
How many families are we going to add? It’s crazy. It makes no sense how this is going to help the community that is already thereshe says.
It seems to be more about profit than anything else.
With information from Kate Porterof CBC News