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  • Writer's pictureHunter Cresswell

Old Chelsea residents want farm back

The residents of Hendrick Farm want to put the ‘farm’ back in Hendrick Farm.

Seventeen residents of the Old Chelsea residential development filed a suit in late May against Hendrick Farm and the Hendrick Foundation, which, until recently, operated the farm in the development. The residents are asking for the farm – which is a reason some people moved to the development – to be restored and for plans to build a garden in its place be scrapped.

“The reason we bought here is because we were told that in perpetuity that there would be an organic farm,” Hendrick Farm resident and plaintiff Geoffrey O’Brian told The Low Down.

According to the statement of claim, this suit isn’t asking for money but it does ask the Gatineau Superior Court to reserve the plaintiffs’ right to sue in the future.

In late November Sean McAdam, the president of both the development company Landlab Inc. and Hendrick Farm, announced that the farm would shut down. He cited financial instability – from 2016 to 2019, the five-acre farm cost $820,000 to operate, but sales generated only $113,000 – and difficulties mixing agricultural and residential uses as part of his reasoning.

Before: The farm in the Hendrick Farm development before it was closed. Photo courtesy Geoffrey O’Brian

“A small group of homeowners who mostly live adjacent to the garden are seeking a permanent injunction against these plans. I was explicitly told that they are concerned that the garden will be ‘too beautiful’ and, as such, will attract the broader public,” McAdam wrote in an email to The Low Down.

He said that other concerns have come in about possible partying in the garden, littering, and loud music.

The farm’s closure came as bad news to O’Brian – who lives near the old farm but not adjacent – and some of his neighbours.

O’Brian said that he would describe his home neighbourhood to his friends and family as an “exciting development built around a five-acre organic farm.”

What used to be the farm is now called a “garden” on the foundation’s website, but O’Brian described it as more of a park than anything else since it’s mostly grass.

“Plans include community garden plots, fruit orchards, berry fields, wildflower fields, and resident-led initiatives like bee hives, chicken coops, and space for a community bread oven,” McAdam said about the future of the greenspace that’s replacing the farm.

“On or about April 22, [Hendrick Farm and the foundation] started work affecting the farm infrastructure, intending to transform the [former farm] into a park in violation of the rights of the Hendrick Farm residents and the agricultural servitude,” the statement of claim states.

The servitude of the former farm states that it will be used for agricultural purposes, according to the suit.

“This transformation will rob the foundation of its very raison d’être and appears to prioritize the interests of the upcoming commercial phase of the project,” the suit states.

McAdam announced his partnership with Groupe Nordik president Martin Paquette for the next phase of the Hendrick Farm development in 2019. The next phase includes plans for 10 acres of mixed-use buildings that house businesses on the first floors and businesses or housing units on the second and third floors.

After: Where the Hendrick Farm development’s farm used to be. The developer plans on turning the space into a garden. Photo courtesy Geoffrey O’Brian

On April 23 the residents sent a letter demanding that work to remove the farm structures stop, but two days later the development and foundation’s lawyers responded that it will continue “regardless of the plaintiffs’ rights and the issues raised of the violation of the agricultural servitude,” the suit states.

McAdam said that the decision to close the farm came after months of consultation with residents, but the claim calls it a “unilateral decision” by the foundation, which was made up of only McAdam and two of his employees.

“There was no consultation involving the co-owners,” the claim states.

McAdam said that he suspects this is the first time that residents have sued for something like this.

“My firm is confident that common sense will prevail, and in the meantime both we and the foundation remain focused on our respective mandates,” he said. “... I hope that in time this small litigious cabal will be able to both see the beauty in shared greenspace and, ultimately, celebrate that it’s near their own house.”

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