Concern over the loss of farmland in the County of Brant has a new group of citizens at odds with Walton Development andManagement’s plans to develop its landholdings across the municipality.
Nearly a dozen residents groups throughout Brant and Six Nations have jointly written a letter to municipalities and the media expressing their dissatisfaction.
“Farmland, natural habitat, and (the area’s) watershed are non-renewable,” the letter states. “Their intrinsic and economic values will only grow over time. We call upon the council of Brant County to be a leader among municipalities, in the protection and preservation of this natural heritage for future generations. We echo the call of First Nations communities to preserve, protect and honour the rich resources of Brant County as a rural and farming area.”
But County of Brant Mayor Ron Eddy said the provincial government is focused on protecting farmland.
“Land that is designated agricultural is protected by the Province of Ontario, and it is strong legislation,” Eddy said. “We have many people (in the county) that express their support of designated agricultural lands.”
A recently completed first charette process hosted by Stantec Consulting on behalf of Walton, in relation to the company’s 3,200 acres of landholdings in the Cainsville and Langford areas, resulted in mixed opinions about the area’s potential future development plans.
Walton president John Plastiras said the company’s first of three planned charette processes in the county dealt with an area located south of Highway 403, north of Colborne Street East, east of County Road 18 and adjacent to the provincial Green Belt’s western boundary.
“We are very excited about the ideas provided by the community,” Plastiras said. “We are still digesting it.
“Many questions dealt with sustainable growth while maintaining the heritage and character of the County of Brant.”
Walton owns roughly 4,400 acres in the County of Brant.
The first charette study area does not yet include any planning applications or specific development plans, Plastiras said.
“Walton has not submitted any formal planning applications within the charette study area,” Plastiras said. “There is a range of potential uses that could go in this area.”
The only draft plan of subdivision submitted by the company in the county is the proposed Riverbend Estates development of about 200 homes in the Tutela Heights area.
County of Brant Coun. Murray Powell, who was part of a working group of the recent charette process, said the potential loss of farmland was the most significant concern among those chosen by Walton to participate in discussions after an application process.
“The No. 1 concern was that we shouldn’t be changing farmland into employment or residential,” Powell said.
Gail Bury, spokesperson for the Tutela Heights Phelps Road Residents Association, said dialogue brought the groups together.
“There is a growing recognition that although all of these citizens groups have specific concerns, the picture is much bigger,” Bury said. “If the provincial Green Belt had been logically extended to beyond the Grand River, a lot of the lands subject to First Nations land claims would also be protected.
“Because the Green Belt ends just to the west of Ancaster, hectares upon hectares of very productive (arable) land are now left for plunder.”