Stu Cockshutt had the absolute best comeback possible for critics of the horse farm and greenhouses he once operated on New Street in Burlington.
“A guy who bought flowers from us used to complain about the flies,” he recalls. “But the flies were there before the horses!”
And the Cockshutt farm, started by his father Jack in 1930, existed well before all the homes that surrounded it.
Cockshutt’s father grew vegetables and flowers in a cluster of greenhouses. As many as 45,000 poinsettias were shipped across Canada and to the U.S. in December every year.
“When I was 10 years old, I hoed potatoes every day after school,” he said.
“A lot of people complained they didn’t want us there” he said. “Some wanted housing. But we were zoned special agriculture, so we could have stayed there forever.”
It’s something to remember for the city’s NIMBY protestors, who seem to want to live in isolation with all their ‘Not In My Backyard’ protests.
The Cockshutt farm was located in what is now Ward 4. It was bounded on the east and west, respectively, by Woodview and Cumberland Avenues and on the south by New Street.
It was only a stone’s throw away from the Burlington Mall on the north and Roseland, Burlington’s most prestigious residential area on the south.
At one time the Cockshutts owned 32 acres stretching north almost to Rexway Drive.
Cockshutt co-owned 27 horses with Carmen Hie, who was a driver on the Ontario harness racing circuit. Four of their horses became Canadian three-year-old champions.
He trained his standardbreads on an oval track almost a half-mile in circumference.
Not everybody dumped on the farm, however. Children from Ryerson school on Woodview were thrilled to take day trips across the street to the nearby barns and feed the horses.
“Heidi (Cockshutt’s wife) was a volunteer there, she loved the kids,” he said. “We had all kinds of kids come over from the school to see the horses and sometimes have a swim in our pool.
”A lot of teachers loved the place.”
Cockshutt, now 90, started selling off parcels of land in 1983. The farm lasted almost 20 years after Burlington was incorporated as a city in 1974 and until its population was 130,000.
When Cockshutt sold off the last bit of the property in 1993 and moved to a new farm near Rockwood, Burlington was the only city in Canada with a farm tucked right square in the middle of its urban area.
A fire hall at the corner of Cumberland and the Roseland Green townhouse complex now face New Street.
In 2009 Aldershot residents were up in arms about a proposal for a pain management clinic on Plains Road, across from Maplehurst School, offering methadone treatments. They feared it would attract drug addicts.
However, a neighborhood advisory committee was created and after the clinic had been in operation for more than a year,
the committee concluded there was no reason to continue its work because there were no issues of concern that were brought to their attention.”
On the other hand, some citizens have spent much of the past five years fighting against new developments they fear might negatively affect their lifestyles, with good reason.
East Burlington residents have been vocal in expressing their displeasure for plans to build 900 residential units on what is now the Lakeside Village Plaza on Lakeshore Road, just west of Burloak Drive.
An 18-storey tower, which would include retail space on the first floor, was part of the plan. The land is zoned for a maximum height of three-storey buildings.
Residents also are concerned about the number of units and an increase in traffic.
The plan has now been sent back to the developer for revision.
And foul odors emanating from the Sofina Foods meat processing plant at the corner of Appleby Line and Harvester Road have raised some ire.
In October the Ministry of the Environment and Conservation and Parks ordered the company to remove waste sludge from the property within three hours of filling a tanker trailer.
The plant, once owned by Fearman’s, has been a source of unpleasant smells from time to time over the years.