Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Brant County farmer worries about proposed housing project

Brant County farmers worry about impact of proposed housing project

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A fifth-generation farmer in Paris is worried access to her farm will be cut off by a locked gate blocking the roadway if plans to build a 400-unit subdivision next door go through.

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Telephone City Aggregates Inc. (TCA), which owns the neighbouring gravel pit where the development is planned, is proposing to install the gate across a county-owned road to prevent new subdivision traffic from travelling down Curtis Avenue South, a quiet dead-end street with fewer than 30 homes.

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But Norma and Tom Isotamm have a 150-acre farm with stocker calves and cash crops at the end of the street, and they worry the gate would mean having to haul equipment such as 20-foot combines and manure spreaders through the proposed subdivision to get to their secluded property.

“They’re not big enough. The streets are not wide enough,” Norma said, noting drivers of a combine, tractor trailer and weed sprayer that access the farm several times a year told her they can’t go through subdivisions.

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TCA executive vice-president Greg Sweetnam said the Isotamms will have a key for the gate, so they could continue to use Curtis Avenue South when they have equipment that needs to go though.

The Isotamms said this hadn’t been communicated to them, but even if they are able to open the gate, they’re still left with concerns.

The new route created in the subdivision will provide additional access to the farm from the south, through the existing Sharp Road industrial subdivision, according to Sweetnam.

And if the Isotamms can access the subdivision, they said that means those folks would also have access to their property.

They said they are also concerned about how their animals will be affected by a busy community next door, noting an incident not long ago where an unleashed dog entered their property and killed two of their geese and injured another.

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At a planning and development committee meeting in October, area Coun. Steve Howes put forth a motion to support Norma Isotamm and her concerns.

But because the case is currently before the Ontario Land Tribunal, there’s not much the county can do at the moment.

Sweetnam said the county designated a portion of their lands for residential in the first place, but stalled on giving a decision for an application TCA originally submitted in 2013 to rezone and approve a subdivision plan, so they appealed to the tribunal in 2022.

The company is “optimistic that our solutions will satisfy our neighbours” in advance of a settlement hearing scheduled for May 2024 that will also give the Isotamms a chance to state their case, said Sweetnam.

The Isotamms said Sweetnam offered to buy their property several years ago, but they weren’t interested.

“Because where are you going to go and get this?” asked Tom, gesturing to their farmland, bordered on three sides by the Grand River, that’s been in Norma’s family since 1852.

“It really is a unique property. And we’re not playing dog in the manger,” said Tom. “We just want to be left alone.”

Celeste Percy-Beauregard is a  Local Journalism Initiative Reporter based at the Hamilton Spectator. The initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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