Councillor seeking solutions for stagnant Blenheim industrial park

Land in the Blenheim Industrial Park that had been announced as sold in 2014 is back up for sale April 20, 2016. (Photo by Simon Crouch)

A Chatham-Kent councillor wants to see some momentum going when it comes to an inactive piece of land in Blenheim.

South Kent Councillor Anthony Ceccacci plans to bring forward a motion during Monday night’s council meeting that requests action to be taken on the Blenheim Business Park.

The park is a municipal-owned piece of land that was designed to provide ready to use industrial lots for potential investors. However, in what Ceccacci describes as a “long process”, the park ran into some hurdles in early 2017. The development of a major greenhouse project planned for four-acres of the park was halted when a site survey by the province indicated that there were threatened species of birds and snakes found on the land.

According to a municipal report in 2018, approximately half of the Blenheim Business Park was identified as having a Species at Risk issue. Council at the time eventually voted in favour of buying back the land from the greenhouse company and selling them another four-acre parcel of land at the park that was not affected.

Any further development on the impacted land would need approval from the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). It was previously indicated that the ministry could safely relocate the at-risk species away from the park.

However, Ceccacci said although municipal officials originally said they were working with the MNR and the local conservation authority to resolve the issue, there haven’t been any updates provided over the last few years. With a large chunk of the park unusable, Ceccacci calls it wasted potential to not utilize the land.

“The Blenheim district business park has the opportunity to be an economical driver and right now it’s sitting very stagnant,” he said. “Unless there are ways we can either relocate or mitigate what’s going on, it’s going to stay vacant. We have to basically find a way to navigate through the permit process and try to come to a resolution. Either we’re going to invest in getting this operational, or we’re going to have to decide what we’re going to do with this.”

Ceccacci’s motion asks that administration writes to the MNR requesting a resolution to the matter and that administration report back to council with options for how to resolve it.

“This is basically tasking staff to ensure that we’re keeping that dialogue open, giving council a very detailed rundown of where we’re going to be doing moving forward and basically see how we utilize this land,” Ceccacci explained. “That land is pretty prime, it’s only about…nine or 10 minutes from [Highway]401. It’s a great location.”

Ceccacci said he hopes a plan can be put in place to move forward with the next steps and overcome the hurdles that the park has faced. He also notes that it’s the taxpayers who put their resources into the park and he believes it’s vital to bring the issue back to the forefront.

“We don’t have any formal updates besides the fact that nothing has really happened. We need to put pressure…to ensure that we’re establishing the correct dialogue with the correct people in the province, to make sure they know the situation,” he said.

According to Ceccacci, growth strategies remain one of council’s main priorities and he saw this as a perfect time to bring up the concern and make sure all communities in Chatham-Kent get to thrive.

“South Kent wants to start seeing some development too. It’s great that Chatham is really coming on the map with buildings and different industries coming there,” he said. “But, we have that property in South Kent and it’s my duty to ensure that the taxpayers, the money that went into that property, is best used.”