By: Laura Steiner
The McCann Family have been commercially farming the same 200 acres of land in Milton Ontario for approximately 200 years. They have raised livestock, cattle, and make their own feed in an effort to guarantee our production. The farm is located in a south-east Milton area known as the Boyne Survey.
In January they received notification for the Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB) that they intended to build a high school on the family’s property. “We first received a formal notification of the Catholic School Board’s intent on January 30, 2018 through their lawyer because the school board refused to speak to us,” Jessica McCann explained in an email. McCann is in the seventh generation to farm the land. She studies Agriculture at the University of Guelph.
HCDSB argues the rising number of students in this area dictate the need for a school. According to board numbers, approximately 3500 students have registered in both Bishop Reding and Jean Vanier high school. “Given the ongoing rate of growth at the secondary level, and upcoming Grade 8 cohorts in the Town of Milton it is expected by the 2020-21 school year both secondary schools in the Town of Milton will have reached their building and portable classroom capacity that the sites can accommodate,” Senior Administrator of Plannng Services Fredrick Thibeault said. The board forecasts 4200 students by 2020-2021.
The McCann’s fear for the safety of the perspective students. “Children are naturally curious and adventurous, I know I was and still am. Due to this however we are extremely concerned not only about the prosperity of our farm but also for the safety of the students. Children are prone to climbing fences and could fall and get hurt. This is on top of the fact that they may come in contact with electric fences,” McCann explained.
The board says plans for the school were developed in cooperation with the Town of Milton. “There are no allocations for this property,” Councillor Colin Best said. An entire section of the Town of the Milton’s website is dedicated to plans for Boyne Survey. No planning applications have been received by either the Town, or the Region of Halton.
The notice of expropriation appeared April 5, 2018 in the Milton Champion. The process gives property owners the right to respond in writing if they want a hearing. McCann came up a petition. “Our goal is to submit this written response accompanied by as many signatures as we can possibly get,” she said. Readers can sign the petition here.
The board must compensate any landowners at fair market price as part of the expropriation process. Early estimates put that between $1.2 and $1.5 million/ acre. The McCann’s have not yet received any offers. “All they have said is that they need the room to build another school due to the expanding population of Milton,” she said. Milton’s population is expected to reach 230,000 by 2031.
Update: 14/9/2018: HCDSB Withdraws Application
The Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB) has withdrawn its application for expropriation. Jessica McCann made the announcement in a Facebook post. “This is such a relief to my family, it feels like a massive weight has been lifted, and it is thanks to everyone that signed our petition, sent letters, made phone calls, and helped us in any way possible,” she said.
McCann also thanked the HCDSB. “I would also like to express my gratitude towards the Halton Catholic District School Board for taking the time to re-evaluate their plans and show us the utmost consideration in our consideration.” The Board withdrew its application as of September 13, 2018.
The McCann family had been fighting the board’s initial decision to expropriate land since January.