The Hamilton Conservation Authority’s bid to buy 25 hectares of environmentally sensitive land in the Dundas Valley from the Anglican Diocese of Niagara has won the support of a key public agency.
The Niagara Escarpment Commission agrees that the plan to sever and purchase a largely natural portion of Canterbury Hills on Lions Club Road not only meets planning policies for the area, but “is in the public interest.”
The proposal will leave the diocese with remnant two lots of about two hectares each. One is home to a summer camp, outdoor education centre, pool and playing field; the other houses a conference centre.
Escarpment protection area policies only allow for such severances as long as no new building lots are created.
A commission staff report agreed with the authority that the plan is in keeping with those rules because both remnant lots already have buildings and will still be subject to development controls should any new structures or works be proposed.
In recommending the purchase be endorsed, the report also noted NEC policies allow for a severance “as part of the acquisition of lands by a public body.”
Authority chair Brian McHattie said although the land deal has yet to be finalized, he’s always viewed it as a “win-win’ situation because it will protect the area in perpetuity and allow the diocese to maintain the summer camp and conference centre. The camp’s future seemed in doubt three years ago when it issued a financial appeal because of the phasing out of a $95,000 annual subsidy from the diocese.
The proposed purchase agreement will allow the church to use a small cluster of cabins and campsites on the severed property.
“The land has been protected by the church but that’s not their primary activity,” McHattie said of the 25-hectare parcel, which will become part of the Dundas Valley Conservation Area.
“We’ve got that decades-long history of protecting and owning land in the Dundas Valley, so that’s I think the main benefit: it provides a long-term, sustainable protection of the natural lands immediately adjacent to existing HCA lands.”
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McHattie said details of the proposed land purchase remain confidential, but he expects it will be “a good deal” for the authority.
“The church, like all churches, is not a rich organization and they have a need to remain whole financially, so we recognize and respect that, but it won’t be as expensive as it might be if it was a private owner,” he said.
Kellie McCormack, a senior strategic advisor with the NEC, said commissioners unanimously endorsed the proposal.
“It’s beautiful,” she said of the 25-hectare property, which she visited in October.
“It’s quite a unique natural area.”