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Laval wants to impose a new tax on wasteland

Photo: Getty Images 29% of Laval's territory is made up of agricultural areas, of which only half is actually cultivated.

Florence Bordeleau-Gagné

Posted at 7:00 p.m.

  • Regions

Nearly 30% of Laval's territory is made up of agricultural areas. Of this percentage, only half is actually cultivated, largely due to real estate speculation: owners let their land lie dormant in the hope of seeing the zoning change. The mayor of Laval announced Wednesday a new tax on uncultivated land, which he said will raise $1.1 million annually. But more than 50 million will be required to complete the repurchase and rehabilitation project, according to calculations from Devoir.

For around thirty years, the City of Laval, through Agriculture Laval, a non-profit organization, has managed to accumulate a fund of $5.2 million thanks to the overtaxation of this uncultivated land, which corresponds to half of the land zoned agricultural. Now, Mayor Stéphane Boyer wants to use this fund to purchase lots suitable for agriculture currently held by private investors. More than 1,100 hectares are therefore in Laval's sights. The mayor indicates that the owners are hoping for a zoning change to be able to resell them at a high price when the time comes.

But Mr. Boyer is categorical: “We have been saying for years in Quebec that we must promote local agriculture. We find it distressing to see land remaining in the hands of speculative owners who do not cultivate their land. A few years ago, we sent a letter to all the owners who do not cultivate their land in Laval to tell them that their land was never going to be rezoned and that the City was interested in buying it from them. »

The new tax aims to speed up the process. This measure will be used to set up a second fund, which will support the rehabilitation of these lots after their purchase, to prepare them for sale and agricultural exploitation. This will include, among other things, weeding, improving drainage and leveling the ground. The City estimates that it will be able to accumulate $1.1 million per year with this new fee.

A project that is slow to see the light of day

The City of Laval, supported by the Union of Agricultural Producers, has been trying to recover uncultivated land to return it to agriculture since the 1990s. Today, Stéphane Boyer hopes to be able to buy back the 1,107 hectares of wasteland considered suitable to culture. This very ambitious project will require an investment of 55 million – almost 39 million for the purchase and 16 million for the transformation. At the rate of the new tax, and with the existing fund, it would therefore take more than five decades to see the cultivable agricultural lands of Laval in action.

“They want to put hand over more than a thousand hectares […]. At what price can these new lands be sold ? How will it be done ?” asks agroeconomist Nicolas Mesly, in an interview with Le Devoir .

Mr. Mesly deplores the recent loss of Laval agricultural land during the provincial government's widening of a segment of Highway 19. The construction of a new gas station also posed a problem for local farmers, most recently . “It landlocked two producers. It is a sneaky force of urban sprawl […] The City of Laval, if there is one place that is massacred, it is there, and it continues to be so despite the good will of elected officials », he says.

These reservations are shared by Gilles Lacroix, president of the union of the Union of Agricultural Producers in Laval, who deplores that the 5, 2 million raised so far have not been used until today.

“It's something that was expected, but whether we're going to deliver the goods is another question,” says the farmer. “We've had a kitty of over 5 million for some time, but producers don't really see any of it,” he adds, distraught.

According to him, there are concrete solutions that could have an immediate impact on the lives of a family of producers, if the 5.2 million already accumulated were used wisely, but he deplores the fact that farmers are considered “nobodies” by elected officials when decisions are made.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116