Pitching for more land
From left, Ernie Hardeman, Nancy Peckford and Steve Clark talk land acquisition at the Kemptville Campus. Van Dusen photo

KEMPTVILLE – In its bid to acquire approximately 200 acres of former Kemptville College it doesn’t already own, the Municipality of North Grenville has a powerful “champion” in local MPP Steve Clark who has made his support clear.

Clark is also Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and in that capacity oversees disposal of surplus provincial property through Ontario Realty Corp., which has offered up the acreage across the county road from the main campus including refurbished dairy barn, Barr Arena and several other buildings with an estimated market value of close to $4-million.

NG which already owns 626 acres of the campus and 50 buildings has officially expressed its interest. First right of refusal goes to other government ministries and agencies; Clark made it clear during the recent 100th anniversary celebration on campus that such an outcome isn’t a given.

“I’d be happy to facilitate another ministry putting a job and economic generator on that land… but I’m not going to let another ministry get it and just sit on it.”

The 200 acres wasn’t acquired in the first round two years ago simply because of the cost, said North Grenville CAO Brian Carre who did the lion’s share of negotiating on behalf of the municipality: “It wasn’t because we didn’t want what is largely an agricultural property… it was just about money.”

In his comments from the podium, Clark said the celebration was about looking forward with optimism to a “bright future” under North Grenville: “As that vision and the future of the campus continue to take shape, I offer my commitment to remain a champion of this place.”

Management of what is now mixed educational use Kemptville Campus piggy-backed on the 100th edition of the Grenville County Plowing Match to belatedly host the anniversary party under a large tent packed with displays, dignitaries and the general public.

While she didn’t mention it publicly, NG Mayor Nancy Peckford found an occasion at the event to chat up Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman about the possibility of acquiring the Barr acreage whereupon he pointed out any transaction must follow Ontario Realty’s process of first-right-of-refusal belonging to other government ministries and its requirement to obtain market value.

Although there is no agricultural component remaining on the NG-owned campus, Hardeman was full of praise for how the property has evolved under the municipality, becoming home to regional school boards, other educational programs, and assorted uses such as regional offices for his ministry… a holdover from its days under the University of Guelph, which announced its departure from Kemptville in 2014 and finally exited about a year ago.

U of G’s decision to cast off its satellite campus led to public inquiries and meetings about how to save the venerable institution. NG came up with the educational hub concept to which Peckford has publicly declared she wants to add an agricultural component.

Acquiring the 200 acres and agricultural assets across the road would perhaps permit the return of programs that were held there under U of G, including a popular equine course revolving around the Barr Arena and research in the dairy barn, which was upgraded thanks to a $1-million investment heavily supported by the Eastern Ontario agricultural community.