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Sep. 21, 2019 | Saturday
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Town will pay ‘a fortune’ in legal fees
A rendering of the hotel proposed for Randwood Estate. (Supplied)

Benny Marotta might “give up” on his plans for the Randwood hotel, he said during an interview Sunday at Two Sisters Vineyards.

“I may give up the hotel and board the houses up and lock up all the gates,” he said, though it didn’t sound like it is his plan.

“If I do that, (people) are still going to complain,” he said, in reference to members of Save Our Rand Estate, who have been vocal in fighting Marotta’s plan for both a hotel and subdivision on the lands of the Randwood Estate.

The proposed developments have ignited a series of legal battles between the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Marotta’s companies Two Sisters Resorts Corp. and Solmar (Niagara 2) Inc.

The town claims the lands to be developed bear significant historical value and alleges Marotta has caused permanent damage to the site’s heritage aspects while preparing to build.

Marotta, who owns Two Sisters Resorts Corp. and Solmar Development Corp., denies the allegations. He claims only specific aspects of the property have real heritage value and that he’s done what’s legally required to protect them.

He is still unclear what members of SORE are fighting him on, he said.

“The problem that I see with SORE is I really don’t know their direction.”

“They’re trying to protect the Rand Estate. I don’t know how they’re going to protect it unless there is someone who develops it to make things happen. We’re trying to make it happen and they’re stopping it. They say no pretty well to everything. It was on the market for a while before I bought it. No one touched it. So it’s unfortunate.”

He said from what he’s heard, NOTL has been getting a “pretty bad name” outside of town.

“Now when someone mentions NOTL, their response is, “is that the town they’re always complaining they want nothing to happen?’”

He fully intends to follow through with the subdivision regardless, he said, “because people, the town, needs people, needs young families.”

“NOTL should not be only to go and eat. 90 per cent of businesses on the strip are not restaurants, they’re shops. And they cannot rely only on tourism.”

He admitted the subdivision is a money-making project.

“It’s a business,” he said.

One thing he said he can “assure the people of NOTL” is that if “left alone” he will build a 5-star hotel, “and the town will be a part of it.”

“We’re going to be attracting people with money who can spend money in town,” Marotta said.

“A lot of people are calling telling me ‘don’t stop, keep going, you’re doing the right thing.’ And there’s a group of people who are more disappointed by the politics, of not protecting the town. The town needs to be protected by the politicians. They were elected by the people. They didn’t get 50 votes from SORE. They got thousands.”

He said he’s “trying to send a message” to council.

“Being a politician is a privilege. You were elected by the people, maybe you should protect them and stop playing politics. It’s crazy what’s happening.”

Marotta has already filed responses to three of the town’s actions which limit development of the lands and said he will seek his legal fees back in all cases.

“The (town is) going to give me a couple-hundred grand by the time we’re done … It’s going to cost them a fortune.”

He expects a decision for a motion to quash heritage designation of the properties in June, after court looks over the documents in April. The single case will cost the town in the neighbourhood of $200,000 if Solmar and Two Sisters win, Marotta estimates.

“We have the appeal on the hotel, the injunction, the heritage. And apparently the town is going to lay charges against Solmar for cutting the trees … They’re going to be exposing the town to a huge liability. Then they have to defend all of those.

He also said he plans to appeal the town’s interim control bylaw which prevents the development of his subdivision.

He claims SORE was the main influence behind the town’s decision to lay charges on Solmar.

“(The town) didn’t want to do it themselves. (SORE) is pushing the town, and by doing that they’re exposing the town to a huge liability. It’s nonsense. There’s no grounds at all.”

When asked why he keeps going forward fighting the town, he said “When I came to Niagara, my intent was to build the best winery, or one of the best wineries in the Niagara region.

“My intent is to say and do the right thing to benefit the town and the businesses and protect my own opinion. So we’ve got to make sure that we pinch them but we’ve taught them everything we need.

“The town won’t go broke,” he said.

The combination of a high-end hotel and subdivision will attract “new blood” to the town, which will benefit growth and business, he said.

“We’re doing all of this to make the Marotta family proud, but also to build and own a signature hotel to attract people from all over the world to spend their vacation, their holiday in NOTL. The overall investment is not based on money making, it’s about leaving a legacy. If it was for money, the $50 million dollars we’re going to be (spending on) the Rand Estate project, we could invest it into the development business and multiply it many times over with no headaches.”

He added he still has “an option” for a buyer on the table.

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