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May. 22, 2022 | Sunday
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Legal battles mounting
File photo.

Legal battles between the The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Two Sisters Resorts and Solmar Development Corp. will start coming to a head in February, according to both Lord Mayor Betty Disero and Two Sisters owner Benny Marotta.

The legal battles stem from a number contentious situations surrounding the development of the Randwood Estate.

Currently, four different proceedings will be before different judicial bodies including the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

The first battle stems from the Town’s decision to seek historical designation status to the Randwood Estate and surrounding properties. Marotta is challenging the decision before the LPAT, claiming many of the buildings don’t have any significant historical value.

The second battle stems from accusations by Town staff against Two Sisters Resorts, which allege trees were illegally removed from the properties of the Randwood Estate, where Two Sisters plans to build a large-scale hotel.

In November of 2018, Solmar Development — also owned by Marotta — removed around 150 trees from 588 Charlotte Street (the property behind the Randwood Estate) to prepare for a subdivision.

The removal of the trees is alleged by the Town to have damaged a century-old protected Dunnington-Grubb landscape on the former Rand property.

Marotta is fighting the Town’s accusations, and claims trees weren’t removed from the Randwood Estate in November, but had already been removed based on the advice of an arborist. He says the Dunnington-Grubb landscape is still intact and claims Town staff visited the site to check if there had been damage done — after protests sparked attention from Town staff — and says at the time nobody told him anything had been disturbed.

Marotta has drawn criticism from some residents, who believe it was immoral to clear-cut the trees, regardless of what’s currently allowed, also accusing him of taking advantage of a time when the town was between councils.

The third battle comes from the Town’s decision to ask a Superior Court to put an interim injuction on Marotta to stop developing.

The decision was differed to the new year, said Disero.

The fourth battle stemmed from the previous council waiting more than 150 days to deal with the application plan for the Two Sisters hotel.

Marotta has also appealed the amount of time, claiming it is beyond reasonable requirements for a development application.

Disero said it is “a very complex” situation."

“I can tell you as a member of council there were too many unanswered questions in my mind with respect to the application,” she said, during a phone interview with The Lake Report.

“So I believe the 150 days was not adequate for the Town to respond to the application. And I’ve always said that we need to deal with what is heritage before we can actually consider the application. We have to know what we’re looking at before we can actually evaluate it.”

She said she didn’t want to put words in the mouth of the planning staff, and that their report would be the final one submitted to the LPAT.

“But there are four issues, we’re dealing with all of them. Nothing has been actually been put on hold, it’s all just perculating along as a result of initial hearings in December.”

And of course everything closed down for Christmas, she added.

“It’s just taking a while. But you know, I think people understand that. Courts and judicial bodies all work at their own speed. They take they’re time. They’re not going to rush anything in terms of making decisions on the appeals or the injuction.” said Disero.

“As much as I would like thing to happen overnight, that’s just not how it works in reality. And it will all unfold in due course.”

She said she doesn’t believe Marotta will “just let things sit” either.

"And two of them, the conservation review board and the LPAT are responding. We didn’t initiate those."