Landmark Fredericton farm could be turned into eco-tourism spot, dense housing

·3 min read
The Neill farmland in question is crosshatched in this City of Fredericton planning document. (City of Fredericton - image credit)
The Neill farmland in question is crosshatched in this City of Fredericton planning document. (City of Fredericton - image credit)

A landmark farm and a large number of residential housing units are at stake as Fredericton's planning advisory committee meets Wednesday evening.

Adam Clawson and Nicola Mason of Red Rover Craft Cider and A. D. Neill & Sons Ltd. have applied for zoning amendments to allow part of the former Neill dairy farm in the Devon area of the city to go back into agricultural production and part to be developed with a mix of new housing, including townhouses and apartment buildings.

The proposal is a way to keep part of the farm's legacy, said Derek Jones, who speaks for the Neill family.

Generations of parents have taken their children there to see where milk comes from or go sliding in winter, he said.

Dairy operations stopped a decade ago at the farm, built in the 19th century on the north side of the St. John River.

Adam Clawson, Nicola Mason and their daughter Freya, purchased the Neill  farmhouse in the Devon area of Fredericton in hopes of relocating their craft cider business and expanding into eco-tourism.
Adam Clawson, Nicola Mason and their daughter Freya, purchased the Neill farmhouse in the Devon area of Fredericton in hopes of relocating their craft cider business and expanding into eco-tourism.(Submitted by Adam Clawson)

Under the plan, 20 acres would be preserved as green space-agricultural-environmental open space, said Jones.

The new agricultural operation would be horticulture, not dairy.

Clawson said Red Rover plans to develop two-thirds of the remaining farmland into an agricultural eco-tourism site.

It would include a micro-brewery-distillery, licensed restaurant, retail store and boutique hotel.

They'd also plant an apple orchard and other small fruit trees and preserve the farmhouse and barns.

It would maintain a slice of country in the city, he said.

People in the community would have access to the site for U-picks and field trips, said Clawson, and it would be a "final home" for Red Rover's production space.

Customers could sample products and get an understanding of how they were made, he said.

Red Rover Craft Cider envisions a new production plant and eco-tourism operation on the farm property.
Red Rover Craft Cider envisions a new production plant and eco-tourism operation on the farm property.(Submitted by Adam Clawson)

The remaining land, near the back of the property, said Jones, would be developed for housing.

According to city documents, properties along Eco Terra Drive would be designated for possible higher-density buildings such as stacked townhouses or apartment buildings.

Neill Street would be extended and two new courts built off of it, zoned for more townhomes and four-storey apartment buildings.

Under a plan approved in 2007, the whole farm was going to be developed with 124 housing units.

Under the new one, a third of the farm would be developed with 320 units, although senior planner Tony Dakiv noted that exact numbers would only be known at the building permit stage.

The housing developments would be along Neill Street and Eco Terra Drive.
The housing developments would be along Neill Street and Eco Terra Drive.(City of Fredericton)

The city planning department is supporting the application.

Dakiv described the project as "a unique opportunity to preserve the agricultural legacy of the farm site and its buildings."

He said the scale of the craft cider and tourism operation "should not adversely impact neighbouring properties."

Jones and Clawson both said the comments they've received so far about the new plan have been overwhelmingly positive.

"I think we've increased the density responsibly and hit a good balance," said Jones.

Jones said since he became involved in the project in 2015, he's been hearing from many people who "lamented" the loss of the farm.

Once the planning advisory committee has considered the matter, the rezoning would still have to be passed by city council.

If approved, Clawson said he would hope to begin construction in July.

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