Thornbury Acres proponent Harley Valentine speaks at The Blue Mountains council meeting in front of a full public gallery. Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Blue Mountains council heard both support and opposition for a proposed 37-unit farm co-operative development proposed on a property located at the corner of County Roads 2 and 40.

On May 16, council held a public meeting to receive feedback from the community on the Thornbury Acres proposal. A huge crowd packed into the council chambers for the public meeting, with many more local residents submitting comments in writing to the town.

The proposal would see the property receive official plan and zoning amendments to allow 37 single detached dwelling homesteads, agricultural and recreation lands within a vacant land plan of condominium.

The plan for the property, which is sized at 60.8 hectares, is to operate a community farm co-operative consisting of agricultural activities and commercial components with the owners of the individual homesteads participating through the condominium corporation.

The farming component of the proposal will run as a business with employees, including a full-time farm manager, supported by condominium fees paid by the owners of the homesteads.

Council made no decision on the applications at the meeting and a full staff report and recommendation will be coming forward in near future.

A number of speakers and letter writers supported the proposal and said the co-operative would be a unique operation in the community that would help younger generations engage in farming activities. Other speakers expressed concerns and opposition to 37 homes being developed on a property currently zoned as agricultural, rural, speciality agriculture and hazard.

“This is the type of community I want to be part of,” said proponent Harley Valentine. “We are really committed to bring a wholesome, sensitive approach to this site.”

Valentine called the proposed co-operative “a next-generation farm” and said the plan is proposing to grow the amount of specialty agriculture land on the property from 20 to 52 acres.

Valentine also said providing some form of attainable/affordable housing is something that is possible, although there were no specifics in the development proposal for such a component.

“We do feel a duty to provide attainable housing. It’s something we’re exploring,” he said.

A number of speakers and letter writers were in favour of the proposal.

“This is a good use of this land,” said Steve Simon. “Why can’t we innovate?”

Collingwood resident Jordan Fleming favoured the concept.

“I’d love to live there with my family,” she said.

Many speakers were opposed to such a development in the rural/agricultural part of the community.

“This is a wedge to get in, to get 37 homes,” said neighbouring resident Paul Parson. “If I start a little vegetable garden, can I now start subdividing my property?”

George Robson said the proposal’s plan to involve homestead owners in farming activities on the co-operative is not realistic.

“Farming is not easy. It’s bloody hard work. It’s expensive,” said Robson. “Who can afford this? I do question if people are going to live in multi-million dollar homes to come up here and work rather than playing the Georgian Bay Club.”

Coun. Alex Maxwell asked how the property was going to support 37 separate individual wells for the homesteads, as well as farm operations. In response, Valentine said their hydrogeological assessment has indicated a “robust” aquifer in the area to support the development.

Coun. June Porter said she had concerns that the proposed development would be beyond the financial reach of many people in the community. Porter noted that the homesteads in the project are over an acre in size and that land in The Blue Mountains is expensive.

“I don’t understand how this can be affordable for young people interested in farming,” she said.

By Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 17, 2023 at 13:29

This item reprinted with permission from   Collingwood, Ontario
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