Land owners continue to push back against Wilmot property sale – CTV News Kitchener

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A group of land owners continue to fight the Region of Waterloo’s plan to purchase 770 acres of farmland across six properties in the Township of Wilmot, between Nafziger Road, Bleams Road and Wilmot Centre Road.

A spokesperson presented their case at Monday night’s council meeting.

“I was amazed at the number of people that showed up yesterday,” Alfred Lowrick, a spokesperson for the land owners, said Tuesday.

The group also received major support from other residents at the meeting.

According to Lowrick, around 200 people were there in person and another 300 attended online.

“We had people from the north end of the township coming, people from Ayr. It was amazing. And then also there’s family and friends, and people that were even as far as New Zealand, believe it or not,” he added.

Wilmot residents turn out to the March, 25, 2024 council meeting to discuss the purchase of 770 acres of farmland. (Source: Rory Farnan)

Lowrick told council that the land owners feel there should have been more consultation throughout process, and they don’t believe the area is the right location for a future development.

“We’re not against growth. We just don’t think growth at this location makes sense,” Lowrick explained.

Wilmot Mayor Natasha Salonen said council cannot comment on their plan, but told Lowrick she will bring his concerns to the Region of Waterloo.

“This evening we just wanted to give you a platform for your concerns to, again, be heard by us, of which I will take that back in my role as Regional Councilor as your representative there and continue to advocate,” Salonen said during the council meeting.

“It comes down to how hard their hands are tied,” Lowrick stated. “Yes, they’ll bring it to council, council was there, staff was there, they all listened. I think a lot of people’s heads were nodding. I think they all agree with it, it’s just a matter of now executing something that makes sense for the community.”

Some of the land the Region of Waterloo is trying to purchase in the Township of Wilmot on March, 26, 2024. (Colton Wiens/CTV Kitchener)

The Region of Waterloo, meanwhile, is assembling land to create shovel-ready sites for large-scale economic investments.

The land owners believe a major project could negatively impact the environment, saying the Grand River Conservation Authority has also not been consulted. The GRCA did not respond to CTV’s requests for comment.

“There’s runoff issues, there’s pollution, traffic, all the things that go into this massive land usage,” Lowrick said.

Since the offer came about, he’s been meeting with the land owners every day to discuss what’s next. Lowrick said the support they’ve received shows local residents really do care about the issue.

“It obviously shows that we’re on the right track and we’ve got the heart of the people.”

Alfred Lowrick talks to land owners in Wilmot on March 22, 2024. (Colton Wiens/CTV Kitchener)

Catherine Fife, Waterloo’s Member of Provincial Parliament, told CTV News she has written a letter to Premier Doug Ford and the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, calling for more transparency and public consultation.

“Our community expects more than secretive back room deals. The impacted farmers and wider community deserve to have their questions about the project answered in a public forum. Community members have pressing questions about the safety and stability of the water supply and environmental impacts of prime agricultural land being rezoned for industrial purposes. This situation urgently needs integrity and transparency,” Fife said in an email.

A statement from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs reads: “Questions regarding Wilmot Township are best directed to the municipality and the Region of Waterloo. We are taking a balanced approach to ensure that agriculture continues to thrive, while addressing the need to support rural economic growth.”

Lowrick said the owners still haven’t seen any official expropriation documents yet and it’s still an offer from the region to purchase the land.

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