NCC Horror Stories

The Woodburn Dairy Farm

As horror stories go, it's hard to top that of the Woodburn family of Gloucester

The Woodburn dairy farm, in the family since the turn of the century, was expropriated by the NCC in 1963 to become part of Ottawa's greenbelt. The Woodburns got $100,000 as compensation for their land and were permitted to stay on as tenants. However, in 1994, the NCC refused to renew the lease, and the Woodburns had to move. The NCC subsequently declared the land surplus, had the City of Gloucester rezone the land commercial, and was entertaining bids of up to $7 million dollars when the Woodburns won an Ontario Superior Court case to stop the sale.

While their claim was ultimately rejected by the Federal Court of Canada, the judge lambasted the NCC for its behaviour with the following remarks:

I would close by saying that I am not unsympathetic to the situation in which the Woodburns find themselves. Their land was expropriated against their will in order to create the Greenbelt. The land itself remained farmland as the defendant entered into a series of leases with the Woodburns. Then, pursuant to a study, the land was declared surplus.

Considering the fact that the Greenbelt was conceived as a "buffer zone" against encroaching urban sprawl, the steps taken by the National Capital Commission to declare the land surplus and to obtain a rezoning of the land from institutional government to highway commercial seem more consistent with accommodation of urban sprawl, rather than resistance to the erosion of green areas. When one considers this, in combination with the fact that the sale of the land generated a profit for the National Capital Commission of $6,7 million dollars, one cannot help but question the motivation of the defendant in declaring the land surplus, rezoning the land and selling it. Accordingly, although the conclusion in law is inevitable, one cannot help but feel considerable sympathy for the Woodburns.


Woodburn Estate v. National Capital Commission [29 Aug 2000]
Citizen: Fire Guts Barn on NCC Property [6 Apr 1999]
The Next City: A Capital Offense [Summer 1999]
Citizen: Greenbelt History Left to Rot [22 Oct 1999]
CBC: Farmer loses claim to expropriated land [20 Sep 2000]
Federal Court of Canada Decision