Windsor in 'hall of shame' for land expropriation

Windsor's reputation for expropriating land has landed the city in a non-partisan think tank's "hall of shame."

City expropriates land at Windsor International Airport

Windsor city council voted to expropriate this land near the Windsor International Airport. (Google Maps )

Windsor's reputation for expropriating land has landed the city in one environmental think tank's "hall of shame."

The group Environment Probe, which took particular issue with the city expropriating land near the Windsor International Airport, has a mandate to promote property rights by empowering individuals and communities to protect natural resources.

"The City of Windsor, Ontario, is infamous for expropriating private property for the benefit of private companies, be they housing developers, the operators of a casino, or car manufacturers," writes Elizabeth Brubaker, executive director of Environment Probe.

She also slammed the city for its latest expropriation of land from owners next to the airport.

"The city has now outdone itself, taking two homes for an admittedly unknown private use at some unspecified time in the future," Brubaker wrote. "In addition to being unnecessary, the expropriation is unfair and economically unsound."

The City of Windsor is in hot water with a think tank over its reputation for land expropriation, including here at the Windsor International Airport. (Google Maps )

The city expects to fill the vacant land with manufacturing, industrial and commercial businesses, according to information from an inquiry into the expropriation in November 2015. The land is located near the proposed site for the new mega-hospital. 

City planner Thom Hunt said at the inquiry private residential lands are an "anomaly" and "inconsistent" with the city's future plans for the proposed industrial park. He also said the city has a high need for the property.

Brubaker said the expropriation gives the city a better looking parcel to entice investors to build near the airport.

"It's unfair, unnecessary and it's economically unsound," Brubaker said.  "A city should need a good reason, but in this case, the reason it's giving is private economic development. "This is not expropriation for a genuine public use. It's expropriation for private gain and that's why it's unfair."

Though city council moved to expropriate the land in February, it decided to look into entering an agreement with one of the landowners — Rosemary Tako — to stay on the land until it's needed.

Patrick Brode, a senior counsel in the city's legal department, says the expropriation took place March 31 and the city is in contact with Tako's lawyers about coming to an agreement.

But Brubaker calls these needs "hypothetical." 

She said it's hard to believe any developer is going to really need that extra land, which is about 16,500 square metres in size.

Brubaker said she isn't against all expropriation, but that there should be minimum standards when doing so.

Her standards would include:

  • A genuine public use, and that doesn't include private economic development.

  • It should occur only when it's absolutely necessary and there is no other alternative available.

  • It should only occur when it's economically sound.