NORTH GRENVILLE, ON - Several months after the announcement of a provincial correctional facility on the site of the old Kemptville College lands, Council has been able to achieve more clarity on some key items that have been of significant concern to the community.
In particular, the Municipality and the Ministry of the Solicitor General are moving towards a shared understanding of the potential for community-driven agricultural initiatives on some of the surplus land that the Ministry will likely not use.
“As we have stated since the beginning, the news of a Correctional facility on the old Kemptville College lands came as a complete surprise. However, the reality is that the province has full ownership of the 180 acre parcel of farm-side lands, and has the correct zoning (Institutional) for their proposed use. They do not require our permission to proceed,” Mayor Nancy Peckford noted.
“With that in mind, the Municipality’s focus has been on ensuring that the facility does not undermine our community’s safety and well-being or burden taxpayers but, instead, creates some exciting opportunities for North Grenville,” Mayor Peckford added.
In a letter dated June 10, 2021 from the Deputy Solicitor General, Deborah Richardson, which is posted on the North Grenville website, the Ministry confirmed in writing their commitment to fully pay for the necessary infrastructure needed for the Correctional facility, including the servicing of the land for water and sewer, and any related road upgrades that would be required.
“The written confirmation in this letter should relieve concerned taxpayers of the false assumption that the Municipality would be asked to absorb these costs,” highlighted Deputy Mayor Jim McManaman. “Council has been adamant, and the Ministry has been clear, that the infrastructure costs will be theirs to bear.”
The matter of where the facility would be located on the site has also been a key preoccupation of the community, given the proximity to Kemptville Campus. During dedicated stakeholder sessions in English and French with all four school boards, the Ministry stated that their current objective is to locate the facility as close to the 416 as possible in order to pursue an “appropriate setback from the existing roads, schools, daycares and community path.”
Another sticking point for North Grenville has been the loss of agricultural land and buildings that were attached to the former Kemptville College farm-side lands. These meant an enormous amount to the community over many decades. In the letter dated June 10th, the Deputy Solicitor General has now formally acknowledged that there will be surplus lands that are not required for the proposed Correctional facility, and that the Ministry:
“will make best efforts to work with the municipality and MPP Clark on opportunities regarding the use of the lands that will not be directly used by the facility, such as the municipality’s vision for community-driven agricultural and related initiatives, which will foster social, cultural and commercial benefits in terms of agriculture, horticulture and equine services. Additionally, at the request of MPP Clark and the municipality, we will work with the municipality on opportunities for the retention of existing buildings on the excess lands.”
“The confirmation of surplus lands by the Deputy Solicitor General opens the door to some exciting possibilities. North Grenville can look to seize the opportunity to bring back a variety of community-driven agricultural and related initiatives to some of these farm-side lands that were lost with the closure of Kemptville College, and create growing, gathering and learning spaces that are compatible with Kemptville Campus,” emphasized Mayor Nancy Peckford.
Momentum for this effort will be aided by the fact that North Grenville will be the host of the International Ploughing Match in September 2022 for which activities will take place on the farm side lands owned by the province, as well as the Campus lands owned by the Municipality.
An organizing committee with representatives from the Grenville Ploughmen’s Association and chaired by local business leader Harry Bennett is already hard at work as they prepare to host up to 80,000 people for North America’s most popular annual agricultural event.
Finally, in the letter released by the Deputy Solicitor General, the Ministry agreed to a follow-up engagement session with the community on the project later in 2021. It will follow a similar format to the one that was held in November 2020.
“Council is eager for the next community engagement session so that the channels of communication remain wide open with the Ministry when it comes to the next steps for this project. Issues like cost-recovery for OPP billing, consultation with indigenous groups, the environmental assessment process, the tendering timelines and site preparation definitely remain on our radar,” said Mayor Nancy Peckford.
“Council appreciates that the Ministry of the Solicitor General and MPP Steve Clark have been highly responsive and engaged since the announcement, and that they have been diligent in answering questions and addressing some key community concerns. We still have a long way to go when it comes to this facility which will not be operational before 2027, so the ongoing dialogue is absolutely key,” added Mayor Peckford.
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