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Zorra enters into conditional agreement to purchase Maple Leaf Foods Inc. Thamesford site

July 22, 2019


Zorra enters into conditional agreement to purchase Maple Leaf Foods Inc. Thamesford site

The Council of the Township of Zorra is pleased to announce it has entered into a conditional agreement of purchase and sale with Maple Leaf Foods Inc. for the Township to acquire a 121-acre parcel of land in Thamesford. The parcel of land includes two existing industrial processing plants, office buildings and an industrial/residential draft plan of subdivision. 

Maple Leaf Foods announced in November 2016 the Thamesford facility would cease production in early 2018 impacting 400 workers. The Township and Rural Oxford Economic
Development Corporation (ROEDC) immediately began strategizing how to mitigate the impact on the municipality and the specter of large vacant industrial buildings in Thamesford’s core. 

The Township and ROEDC explored many options over the past 18 months and through its due diligence determined there was potential for the municipality to purchase the property and sell off distinct parcels to interested parties. The municipality sought development proposals for eight separate parcels and in response has entered negotiations with three proponents to purchase seven of eight parcels. The deal with Maple Leaf is contingent upon the municipality receiving signed offers of purchase and sale.

The Township is not able to disclose details on the development proposals at this time. However, the municipality will immediately begin public consultation should the conditions be
met in the conditional sale with Maple Leaf.

The Request for Proposal for the development process noted the Township’s desired outcomes to be as follows:

(a) a vibrant, mixed-use community that enhances the area while respecting the existing neighbourhoods;
(b) enhanced physical and visual connections to the Thames River and increased public access to the water’s edge;
(c) a community that is inclusive of a diverse range of incomes, household configurations, and lifestyles; and
(d) a community that stands as a model of excellence in the fields of design, sustainable living, accessibility, and environmental conservation.

While not able to discuss specific details of the various development proposals, Mayor Marcus Ryan remarked, “Council was very impressed with vision expressed by the proponents and the submissions addressed the desired outcomes listed in the RFP.”

Mayor Ryan also commented, “Many of the issues raised by the public at an open house in February were covered off in the proposals. When the plant closure was announced, the fear of dilapidated buildings and acres of vacant land sitting dormant was a concern of all in Thamesford. What we have before us checks off all the boxes in our Strategic Plan: we are vibrant, we are prosperous, we are engaged, and we are environmentally conscious.”

Ward 2 Councillor Katie Davies noted that “the mixed use of housing proposed is exactly what our community needs to provide alternatives for first time home buyers and those wishing to downsize but continue living in Thamesford.”

Chief Administrative Officer Don MacLeod said, “After almost 18 months of negotiation, I am very hopeful we will be able to close this deal within the next 60 days.” He also noted “the Township will carry out full consultation and public engagement in this process once we are in a position to release details.”

Located in the heart of southwestern Ontario, Zorra Township has a population of approximately 8,300 people in a rural/urban setting. The Township comprises several rural
clusters and two serviced villages. Zorra’s vision is for a vibrant, prosperous, engaged and environmentally conscious community that evokes pride in residents for its accomplishments and continuing resilience as it forges the future.