KEMPTVILLE —The Municipality of North Grenville is calling it the “renewed Kemptville College,” but Kemptville College Alumni Association president Ron Burgess isn’t buying it.
“It’s just not going to be an agricultural college as we knew it,” Burgess told Farmers Forum.
A recently completed BDO feasibility analysis supports the municipality’s plan to negotiate with the province to take over the campus but recognizes that the property is not viable as a stand-alone college.
The plan would see the township create a non-profit group to manage the 847-acre 52-building property and lease out sections of the campus. The municipality also wants the province to return to the college its college charter status or the municipality says it will launch a private career college.
Burgess describes the plan as “pretty much a disappointment on behalf of the province, for their complete lack of interest in an ag college for Eastern Ontario. They wanted to just dump it.”
BDO’s market assessment concluded that “the agricultural college is not a viable venture on its own,” but fits into the municipality’s plan to transform the campus into a research and innovation centre to combat climate change, meaning a need for government funding.
The report says that post-secondary and adult education could include trades training and vocational courses in horticulture, cold climate solar greenhouse training, as well as special needs programs for those with developmental disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorders.
“It’s just going to be a rental facility,” said Burgess. “It’s all speculation on their part.”
The first tenant, a French-language elementary school, will move into three campus buildings this fall.
Municipal council voted in March to withhold the entire feasibility study from the public due to “sensitive” information in the document, although a copy was obtained by Farmers Forum. What might be sensitive is that half the college land, almost 400 acres, is listed as “surplus lands.” With access to sewer, water, hydro, gas and paved roads, the lands would be ripe for selling to developers for housing subdivisions if a non-profit entity is formed to take control of the college.
The municipality has denied having interest in developing college land for housing but some local residents say housing is the only obvious fit for all the land at the south end of town and next to the local hospital.
The BDO report also mentioned a 2009 research report that suggested the best net return over time was “the continuation of the existing use,” or another kind of institutional usage such as a health care facility, long-term care facility, or a training and conference centre on the main campus. It also included recommendations to continue the Equestrian Centre on 180 acres and continue farming its 408 acres of farmland. The report also noted “potential development” for residential use on 20 acres.