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Challenging farmland expropriation

Challenging farmland expropriation

Producers can follow a legal process if they face an expropriation application 

Staff Writer
A recent expropriation scenario involving the McCann family of Milton, Ont. rekindled interest in the ag and legal communities about how to protect farmland. 
The seventh-generation McCann family created an online petition in April to halt the Halton Catholic District School Board’s plan to use 20 acres of their land to build a secondary school. The petition garnered over 37,000 signatures within a six-month period. The school board has since decided to use other land for the school. connected with Robert W. Scriven, barrister and solicitor at Oldfield, Greaves, D'Agostino & Scriven, a law firm based in Waterloo which specializes in agricultural law, to learn more about challenging farmland expropriation applications.
An expropriating authority can seize land under the Expropriations Act, an October Mondaq article said. The expropriating authority provides the landowner with a Notice of Application for Approval to Expropriate Land. 
The landowner can request a "hearing of necessity" (in accordance with section 7 of the act) in which the expropriating authority must prove the plans are necessary and just. In the process, the landowner can present a rebuttal and evidence to challenge the proposal. 
After the hearing, an inquiry officer will develop a non-binding suggestion to determine if the expropriation plans are required. 
“In terms of expropriation, it happens fairly often, but you hear about it more often because it usually involves a rural - urban clash, or issue,” Scriven told 
“Things like minor expansions of crucial public infrastructure happen relatively routinely. Usually, at that level, there are positive discussions because authorities having jurisdiction are willing to make concessions with the farmer, and the expropriation does not threaten the core asset of the farm or its viability. It’s usually a pretty smooth process.”
Major expropriation projects occur less frequently, he added. 
In these cases, “if the authority exists to expropriate, the most practical avenue to take, if you don’t have a strong defense, is to negotiate the best deal possible.
“Sometimes, you can engage in a political defense, which is working with local counsellors and/or ministers, or contacting the media, and trying to make the expropriation a politically sensitive issue,” Scriven explained.   
Landowners can also seek agricultural land protection through Farmland Easement Agreements (FEA). These agreements provide farmers with a way to protect their farmland for future generations, the Ontario Farmland Trust website states. 
FEAs are private, legal contracts, negotiated between property owners and an easement-holding organization. The parties then register the agreements on property title. They are “the strongest tool available to private farm owners who want to protect their land in the long-term,” the website explains. 
For more information about FEAs, click here to visit the Ontario Farmland Trust website.
SylvieBouchard/iStock/Getty Images Plus photo



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