By Connor Lynch
CORNWALL — Farmers considering selling or upgrading their land may want to make a trip to their municipal office, because their land may have been rezoned without them knowing.
Glengarry Landowners’ Association member and real estate agent, Jamie MacMaster, told Farmers Forum that various levels of government, including townships, counties, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, have the power to rezone lands as wetlands, and have been doing so for more than 10 years without informing landowners.
“This is happening across the province,” MacMaster said.
One Eastern Ontario property owner discovered last month that 80 per cent of his land was rezoned when he was trying to sell it. The interested buyer visited the municipal office for a plan of the property and discovered it was mostly a wetland. MacMaster said that the designation probably happened 16 years ago.
MacMaster said that when land has been re-designated as a wetland, it can’t be developed. And that, said MacMaster, destroys the value of the land.
“There’s a premise in real estate, that the more use you can get out of it the more value there is in it. That’s indisputable. You can’t do anything with a wetland from the point of development.”
The first thing a landowner has to do is fight the re-designation by asking the municipality which rezoned the land and contesting the designation. If that doesn’t work, contact the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) and apply for a property reassessment.
“If you can’t get it reversed or redrawn, then accept it, (argue) that a bunch of your land has been declared valueless, and take steps to get your taxes adjusted accordingly.
“Municipalities are shooting themselves in the foot. What they’re doing is designating a large chunk of their territory as valueless.”
MacMaster added that he’s heard cases of landowners, concerned at the prospect of having pieces of their land declared valueless, taking matters into their own hands.
“They’re taking out the beaver dams, draining, clearing, removing what they call natural heritage features. Most landowners don’t want to, but they don’t want to lose the utility of the land either.”