'They must admit they made a mistake,' relative says of donated conservation land sold off by LTVCA
LONDON, ONT. -- The relative of a prominent Elgin County leader whose donated land was sold off by the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority (LTVCA) is now demanding a written apology.
Jim Crane says he will look at legal action if he does not get something on paper from the LTVCA and Southwold Township.
The latter is where the former Crane Conservation, named for his late uncle Dr. James Crane, resides.
“I would definitely like to see that both Southwold Township and the LTVCA admit they made a mistake, with documentation, and that a situation like this should never happen again.”
The former Crane conservation authority property is a 3.25 hectare (eight acre) woodlot, off Iona road in western Elgin County.
Crane recently learned it was sold, by the LTVCA, to a private owner for $9,000.
The original CTV News story on the sale price generated significant public outrage online. Crane says it also resulted in political attention and the interest of other media.
Although the land sale is complete, a cairn built in the memory of his uncle remains at the site.
The late Dr. Crane was a respected medical educator, entrepreneur and nature lover. He died in 1959, but before his death he donated the Iona Road woodlot to Western University.
A few years, later Western transferred it to Elgin County, who in 1976 gave it to the LTVCA.
Each time the price was $1.
Crane contends the wording on a plaque on the cairn outlines what his uncle intended for his former lands.
“To be maintained thereafter as a demonstration woodlot, as a park, and as a memorial to the distinguished native son of Elgin County.”
Crane says old letters and conversations suggest each public entity intended to keep that promise, but the chief administrator of Elgin County suggests otherwise.
In a meeting of county council last week, Julie Gonyou stated none of the deeds, until the most recent sale, included restrictive covenants on the land. And even if they did, the 40-year maximum on such restrictions has passed.
However, she conceded there could be more information available through a title search.
Councillors did not ask for one, but Warden Tom Marks made it clear more needs to be done, “I’m sure this won’t be over today. It’s disturbing.”
Beyond a written apology, Crane wants the cairn moved to his uncle’s grave near Eagle, Ont. and an original brass plaque at the site moved to the Elgin County Museum.
If not, he says he will talk to his lawyer to ensure the legacy of his uncle, who he is named after, is protected.
“He didn’t donate this property, in the first place, to be destroyed and just let go. He had a great commitment to trees. He had a great commitment to nature. He believed in this or he wouldn’t have put all this time and effort into planting these trees like he did. So, yes, he would be very happy with what I am doing.”
Crane contends he holds no ill will with the current property owner, saying "anyone" would have bought the land for $9,000, especially as a small portion of it can be built on. A permit for a house has been granted according to Southwold Township.
The LTVCA has outlined numerous reasons for completing the sale of the former conservation authority lands, including the high cost of a replacement drain.