By Patrick Meagher
KEMPTVILLE — The Kemptville College campus is a “jewel of Eastern Ontario” and will not be used for housing development, says North Grenville Township mayor David Gordon. A subdivision “would be over my dead body.”
One idea, however, to replace agriculture on campus could be a centre on environmentalism. Among the ideas floated in a BDO feasibility study was a research and training facility to combat climate change, as well as short courses in horticulture and the trades.
In an interview with Farmers Forum, Gordon reiterated that the township was not interested in a housing development for the college campus, an idea often raised in coffee shop talk around the town of Kemptville. The thought of a subdivision only escalated after the township declined to make public the 32-page BDO feasibility report on the possible future of the 847-acre, 52-building, 100-year-old agricultural school. Farmers Forum obtained a copy of the report that identified 400 acres as “surplus” lands. The surplus lands are located at the south end of town and next to the local hospital. Some of the campus land is now used by the community for sports. There are eight soccer fields.
The University of Guelph took over the college in 1997 and announced its closure two years ago, provoking a loud outcry from rural Eastern Ontarians with strong ties to the college. The last 28 students graduated this spring. The last of the agricultural diploma students graduated last year.
While Gordon said the land at the south end of town sounds like a developer’s dream, “We’re battling urban sprawl. It would be over my dead body. Subdivisions? Right now we are battling climate change and quality of life. More subdivisions? No. We have a jewel in Eastern Ontario, which is the Kemptville College. We want it to remain intact for generations for people to enjoy.”
Local newspaper editor, David Shanahan, of the North Grenville Times told Farmers Forum that the locals have a huge emotional attachment to the campus and don’t want to see the green space and buildings destroyed.
The township plans to negotiate with the province to take over the campus and lease some of the buildings. The first tenants, a French-language elementary school, arrive in September and will use three campus buildings.