By Connor Lynch
STITTSVILLE — The Morley farm at Stittsville, owned by Joni Sabourin, has had issues with fire. Teenagers from the neighbouring suburbs nearly burnt a tree down on her back lot and unauthorized bonfires aren’t uncommon.
But these days, she’s more worried about water. A substantial piece of her 185-acre farm, just west of urban Ottawa, that she rents to an area farmer, is about to be zoned as a provincially significant wetland. Water has crept onto her property, killing parts of her hayfields and some of the trees.
Sabourin is concerned that if the designation goes through, the land covered by the designation and the 120-metre buffer zones surrounding it will lose much of its value.
The city, which was reportedly to vote on an Official Plan amendment in January, hired an environmental firm back in 2016 to review wetland areas in the City. That brought the Morley farm into view. The study stated that new wetlands formed since 1946 “may be due to drainage diversion, lack of maintenance of drains and culverts and active obstruction by American beavers.”
City of Ottawa senior planner Nick Stow told Farmers Forum in an emailed statement that the city’s drainage superintendent reviewed the study and concluded that drain capacity, or lack thereof, didn’t cause any wetland increase.
Sabourin said that the water forming on her land isn’t a natural wetland, but an artificial one, caused by poor drainage in the area. “I’ve lived here for 55 years. This never used to be wetland.”
Since she’s surrounded by raised terrain on three sides by a local junkyard, the Trans-Canada trail and a housing subdivision, the water from all neighbouring water sources has been building up on her land, she said.
But the Ministry of Natural Resources doesn’t recognize a distinction between artificial and natural wetlands. The Provincial Policy Statement, the province’s rules on land use, requires municipalities to include protection for natural heritage features, including wetlands, artificial or not, in their official plans.
Sabourin has retained a lawyer, and said if the city zones her property a wetland, she plans to appeal to the Local Affairs Planning Tribunal.