CLC Hires Toronto Consultants to Mediate Fate of Upton Farm

Jules and family enjoying the cool breezes at Upton Farm.

The Canada Lands Company recently hired the Toronto-based Canadian Urban Institute to confer with interested groups in Charlottetown about the best use for the Upton Farm property.  According to its website,, the CUI is:

“…a national non-profit organization established in 1990 by the City of Toronto and the former Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto. It is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in urban areas across Canada and internationally. It provides contracted services, research and strategic solutions to important urban issues to private sector corporations, international development agencies, governments and voluntary sector organizations.”

Last week, CUI reps Jeff Evenson and Nicole Swerhun spoke with several local groups and individuals, including PEI Trails; Friends of the Farm; Charlottetown city councillors and planners; Catherine Hennessy; and, of course, members of the Upton Farm Preservation Network;  about potential uses for the Farmland.

It appears the goal of this consultation with individuals and groups is to mediate some peaceful conclusion on the fate of the Farmlands. The comments of CLC manager Ron Pachal in a CBC radio interview printed below indicate that Canada Lands has no intention of allowing this land to remain as greenspace for the enjoyment and use of all Island residents and visitors. It is clear the plans are to develop this property, even if it takes “ten to fifteen years to get it right,” according to Mr. Pachal.

“Getting it right,” in the opinion of the Upton Farm Preservation Network and its supporters, would be doing what environmental groups, oyster fishers, history lovers and trail walkers are asking; that is, to keep the property as greenspace. Unfortunately, CLC is only interested in making a multi-million dollar profit from this land. Upton Farm was purchased piece by piece from local farmers by the  taxpayers of Canada between 1948 and 1953  for a paltry $19,500. It was valued by Agriculture Canada at $1 million when CLC was contracted to sell it a few years ago.

It is interesting that CBC radio reports that CLC proposes a 20-house subdivision for this property. The plans CLC presented for approval to Charlottetown City Council and residents at a public meeting were for a 350-unit subdivision.

Was the change in housing numbers simply an error in CBC reporting?

Or does CLC now plan to flog this priceless greenspace to the real estate market in order to build 20 executive waterfront homes; homes that would prevent the many people who now enjoy the amenities of the publicly-owned Upton Farm from access to the shoreline? Is this not a microcosm of what is happening all across this beautiful Island of ours?

As has been said so many times before, our forefathers had the foresight to preserve Victoria Park for the use and enjoyment of future generations. Charlottetown has grown and expanded exponentially since that time. Where is the Victoria Park for the 21st century? It appears to be held for ransom by a Crown Corporation owned by the federal government.

Please read the CBC news transcript below, and please, especially note the comments of Des Lecky, a Charlottetown resident who walks Upton Farm every day.

“I think there’s probably enough residential land vacant [to build on] around Charlottetown.  I think if you look back in 50 years you’ll really regret it if you develop it at this point in time. There’s no more land, so this is a prime piece of real estate that should be kept for future generations,”  he says.

Mr. Lecky is correct; there are presently over 290 serviced lots available to be built on right now in the West Royalty area of Charlottetown alone. Do we need to use the Upton Farmlands, a beautiful piece of property at the western gates of Charlottetown, which was bought and paid for by the taxpayers of Canada a half-century ago, for yet another subdivision?

Consultants conferring on Upton Farm

Friday, July 27, 2007

CBC News

Canada Lands Company has hired planning experts to help it decide what to do with Upton Farm, a large green space in the north of Charlottetown.

Those in favour of keeping Upton Farm as a park would like to retain the views to the water.

The 100-hectare property was approved last summer as the site of a new subdivision, but public protests against the development have sparked a new round of consultations. The Toronto-based Canadian Urban Institute is meeting with interested people and groups this week to see if some kind of agreement can be reached.

“The fact is that everybody who lives in Charlottetown has a say in how Charlottetown grows and how the assets that are available to Charlottetown contribute to Charlottetown’s future,” Jeff Evenson of the Canadian Urban Institute told CBC News.

“What we’re interested in is how to talk about that.”

The institute met Thursday with representatives of Island Trails, who want to see the space remain green.

“We’d like to see a lot of trees there but still have it open, so people can enjoy what view there is down on the riverside,” said Tim Connor of Island Trails.

This dialogue is coming after Canada Lands Company got municipal approval to build a 20-home subdivision. The resulting protests prompted city council to ask the Crown corporation to withdraw its development plans.

But Ron Paschal, Canada Lands Company real estate manager, said the corporation is willing to take more time to consult.

“It’s [the institute’s] job to go speak to people and hear the folks, whatever their issues might be. That’s what we’re taking this time to do,” said Paschal.

“We had the approvals here, but we’re not going to have a bulldozer here or something if we don’t have what we think is a proper development.”

Paschal said the corporation is willing to take 10 to 15 years to get the development of the property right.

For people who are already using the property as a park, the only right development is no development at all.

“I think there’s probably enough residential land vacant around Charlottetown,” said Des Lecky, who walks his dog on the old farm property three times a day.

“I think if you look back in 50 years you’ll really regret it if you develop it at this point in time. There’s no more land, so this is a prime piece of real estate that should be kept for future generations.”

The Canadian Urban Institute said it will return to Charlottetown for more consultations.