Caledonia “has become the sacrificial lamb”: Developer

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CALEDONIA Michael Corrado finds himself between proverbial rock and anvil.

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The boulder is 1492 Land Back Lane, the one-year occupation of a Caledonia construction site that adjoins its property.

The hardest part, according to the Ancaster-based developer, is the government’s reluctance to do anything about a dispute over native land rights that resulted in the cancellation of two buildings in Caledonia and clouded the outlook for the Corrado’s own project.

“We’re in limbo right now,” said Corrado, who, along with his business partners, owns 83 acres between what would have been the McKenzie Subdivisions and Douglas Creek Estates.

The Corrado property was to be the next phase of the McKenzie construction, which was recently abandoned by Foxgate Developments.

Today, however, its lands are used by land defenders as a safe passage between McKenzie Road and the former lands of Douglas Creek, which are now known as Kanonhstaton and remain occupied by members of the Six Nations.

“They built a road on our property. They are encroaching on our property, ”Corrado said.

“We’ve complained to the OPP, but they’re not going to do anything,” he added, referring to a court injunction that bars anyone not authorized by Foxgate from being on the McKenzie property.

“If they make an arrest, they catch and release, and they do it offsite,” Corrado said.

Corrado was one of the first buyers of McKenzie land in 2003. The county and province approved his company’s plans for a subdivision initially named McKenzie Meadows. In 2015, Corrado’s company sold the 25 acres closest to McKenzie Road to Losani Homes and Ballantry Homes – the companies behind Foxgate – and the project was renamed The McKenzie.

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With Foxgate canceling all contracts and paying off buyers’ deposits at the end of June, Corrado is unlikely to break new ground on its half of the project anytime soon. The same is true for Ballantry, which owns land east of the McKenzie site that is expected to become a large subdivision.

But the occupation did not slow down other construction in Haldimand. There are 14 housing estates at different stages of development in the county, including several major constructions in and around Caledonia encompassing over 2,000 residential units in total.

“We have a significant amount of development going on (and) a significant amount of development going on,” said Craig Manley, Executive Director of Haldimand.

“As it stands, there is every indication that most of the people who have invested and filed for development continue to use them.”

Manley said the county was “disappointed” but not surprised when Foxgate unplugged construction at McKenzie after the long occupation, adding that he sympathized with homebuyers who “saw their lives drastically disrupted.”

“We feel bad for them because there is nothing you can point out that was fundamentally wrong with the actions taken by the developer,” Manley said.

Haldimand-Norfolk MP Toby Barrett said following the rules is no guarantee of success in Caledonia.

“We saw this movie before, with Douglas Creek Estates 15 years ago,” Barrett said. “Unfortunately, with all the problems around Caledonia, some things are predictable. My advice to the county would have been not to provide a building permit (on McKenzie).

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Corrado is no stranger to the issue of land claims, as his previous constructions in Cayuga have been challenged by the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI) and Six Nations land rights activists.

In 2008, he successfully applied for a Superior Court injunction against a group protesting a 44-unit townhouse project. Corrado said the townhouses were ultimately “sold at a much lower price due to this blockade”.

In the years following the occupation of Douglas Creek in 2006, some housing developments took place in Caledonia with minimal or no disruption from the land defenders. So Corrado thought it was clear when he moved to develop the McKenzie property, which those on Land Back Lane say is unceded Haudenosaunee territory.

Corrado rejects this view and says he has the documents to prove it.

“We have the original surrender, when the Chiefs of the Six Nations sold this property to the Crown, with all the signatures of the Chiefs. All of this land has been properly ceded and sold, ”he said. “If the money the Six Nations received was embezzled, that’s another story. It’s a matter of accounting. But they have no right to the land.

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council – the hereditary leadership of the Six Nations – claims they have documents proving the McKenzie land was not ceded, while a 1995 lawsuit by the elected council demands Ottawa an account of the various transactions land in the Haldimand Tract.

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In April, the Confederation declared a moratorium on development in the Haldimand Tract, unless manufacturers and governments first consult the HDI.

“If we don’t have anyone to sit down and talk to about development and where and how it’s going to unfold, then obviously we’re being pushed to say, ‘OK, we’re going to stop all development,’” the rep said. from HDI, Aaron Detlor.

“It doesn’t make sense to come to us after the fact and say, ‘We have approved a development, can we now talk about your interests? “”

Those who ignore the moratorium and try to build should expect a repeat of what happened on McKenzie Road, Detlor added.

“I think any developer should take the risk of developing on what is clearly stolen land seriously,” he said.

Corrado remains frustrated by the apparent lack of political will to resolve a dispute that encompasses not only Caledonia but also land along the Grand River from north Fergus to Lake Erie.

“There is no politician in the world who is going to wade through this hot water. Nobody wants to touch it, especially now, ”Corrado said.

“Caledonia is obviously consumable and has become the sacrificial lamb, because it is geographically convenient to block. But Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Brantford, Paris are all part of the same land dispute.

Manley said the long occupation at Land Back Lane, like Douglas Creek before it, affected Haldimand’s reputation as a place to do business.

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“Obviously, it’s not helpful,” the CEO said.

“Due to certain reputational implications, we are putting a lot of energy and effort into promoting Haldimand – and I believe successfully – as a welcoming place for investment and for tourists, and we will continue to do so. make.”

He echoed Corrado’s call to senior levels of government to “deal with” land claims and remedy “historical injustices to the indigenous community”.

“They need to step up their efforts,” Manley said of federal and provincial officials. “So that everyone involved has a clear idea of ​​what is going to happen and what is not going to happen, and so that we don’t end up in 10 years with another situation.”

Almost two decades of frustration have not driven Corrado from Caledonia.

“Absolutely not. We want to develop there. We have to keep pushing,” he said.

Realistically, he added, his only option now is to hold onto McKenzie ground and hope for the best.

“We have no choice,” Corrado said. “Who is going to buy this land while it is occupied?” “

JP Antonacci is a reporter for the Local Journalism Initiative based at the Hamilton Spectator. The initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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