Boundary dispute hurting region’s ability to compete, says business leader

(as published in the Brant News, Thursday, March 20th, 2014)


New Brantford-Brant Chamber of Commerce president Jim DiNovo describes the need for a local boundary adjustment solution as "urgent."

The chamber issued a polite media release this week urging for a solution to the boundary dispute between Brantford and the County of Brant, but it seems clear the business organization is growing impatient with the impasse between the municipalities.

The concern starts with the negative impact on the local economy – both now and into the future.

"What we do today is going to affect the prosperity of this community five, 10 years from now," DiNovo said in an interview with Brant News on Thursday.

"We’re competing and we need to be prepared if we're going to entice these companies to locate here and also other companies that want to stay and expand within the community," he said.

DiNovo said he is not aware of a dollar figure for what the boundary dispute has cost the region in lost opportunity, but he called lack of serviced land within Brantford a "major holdback" on economic development.

In the release, the chamber said it supports Brant Mayor Ron Eddy's initiative to prepare a discussion paper with input from county councillors in an effort to move toward a boundary adjustment with Brantford. The chamber also said it agrees that Brantford has inadequate employment lands available for development.

The two municipalities re-opened boundary negotiations in August 2013 but have come to a stalemate.

Brantford Mayor Chris Friel and Eddy traded letters in February. Friel called the county's commitment to boundary adjustment "hollow," while Eddy said the county’s commitment to a mutually agreeable solution is "unwavering."

Brantford and the County of Brant have been at loggerheads over their boundaries for the better part of a decade. The last round of negotiations in 2007 ended without an agreement.

In October 2013, Brant and Brantford drafted a letter of intent for the transfer of more than 2,000 hectares of land from the county to the city. The lands are primarily located north and west of the city. The boundary adjustments would be implemented over four phases spanning 21 years and cost the city an estimated $16.3 million.

Brantford council signed the letter but Brant council did not after rural residents opposed the annexation.

"It's a polarizing issue," DiNovo said.

It's not the first time the chamber has spoken up on the issue. The organization asked the province to keep the municipalities at the table when talks broke down earlier.

"We’re going to continue to push, even in an election year," DiNovo said. "We don’t want it come off the table. We don’t want an imposed settlement or anything like that. We just want it to continue until it's resolved, until there is an actual boundary adjustment that affords the city more lands to develop."

The chamber held its annual general meeting Thursday evening. Neither mayor attended.

"Economic development and jobs are important to both communities and boundary lines shouldn’t be roadblocks for prosperity," County of Brant Ward 5 Coun. Joan Gatward said at the event.

The province has so far stayed out of the local fight. Municipal Affairs Minister Linda Jeffery has said the two municipalities should do everything possible to come to a local solution to boundary adjustment.

Friday, March 21, 2014