SPENCERVILLE — Fifty years ago, the province bought up 10,000 acres of farmland, south of Kemptville (between Spencerville and Prescott) to make way for a future petrochemical development and jobs. It never materialized. Instead, the farms in the “Edwardsburgh Land Bank” largely sat fallow for decades and grew up into scrub — testament to the central-planning philosophy embraced by governments of the 1960s and 1970s.
But the land now has a chance to return to agricultural production, if the township negotiates the purchase of the Land Bank from Infrastructure Ontario.
Since 2015, the fickle provincial agency has twice dangled the tract in front of Edwardsburgh/Cardinal Township, only to back away from divesting it to the municipality, says an exasperated sounding Mayor Pat Sayeau. A third round of talks got underway last October.
Sayeau says the agency wants $10.1 million for the entire 10,000 acres. The township is offering to pay half of that up front, with the balance financed through the sale of individual farmland parcels the township would sell to private buyers through sealed, blind tender. Any excess funds at the end of the process would go into service improvements for a potential 2,000-acre industrial area, west of Hwy 416, the mayor said.
However, the Infrastructure Ontario bureaucracy is “scared to death that somebody’s going to make a profit on provincial land,” he exclaims. “But we’re not interested in making any profit.”
About 7,000 acres of tillable agriculture land would go back into production as part of the township’s proposed arrangement. The mayor is confident his municipality can successfully sell that land back to farmers.