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May. 24, 2022 | Tuesday
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SORE and Two Sisters meet in court
Residents packed into a St. Catharines courtroom Wednesday morning to hear SORE and Two Sisters lawyers argue about citizen group joint legal action.

More than 60 people packed a St. Catharines courtroom Wednesday morning to hear lawyers present arguments in the latest episode in the battle between local activist group Save Our Rand Estate and Solmar Development.

SORE wants the court to name it as an official party in legal proceedings between the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Two Sisters Resorts Corp. and Solmar Niagara 2 Inc. — commonly known as Solmar Development Corp.

The decision was reserved for a later date as the judge reviews the evidence presented.

The morning was filled with case law arguments, as Two Sisters’ lawyer Michael Melling squared off against SORE representative Richard Stephenson.

Stephenson outlined a number of reasons SORE thinks it should be granted party status.

He said, hypothetically, if Two Sisters was not a part of the proceedings already, being so heavily affected by the decisions, it would easily be granted third-party status. 

He also argued that SORE supporters, living directly in the vicinity of the proposed developments, would be greatly affected by the proposed developments of a hotel, conference centre and a planned subdivision.

If given party status SORE would be entitled to full party rights and access to cross-examination.

Melling presented a number of reasons he doesn’t think SORE should be granted party status.

Among his reasons was that SORE does not having any different arguments than the town, pointing out a number of cases in which groups were denied party status for not bringing new, relevant information to the table. He cited a number of situations where groups, some national, which he believes have more credibility and a better track record of getting things done, have also been denied party status in similar cases.

Stephenson agreed that in some cases parties were denied status because they did not bring any new information to the table.

However, he said he doesn’t believe the same should apply to SORE, rebutting Melling’s argument by reiterating that SORE members would be the most directly affected by the developments.

“Period. Stop. End of sentence.”

Melling noted that SORE has acknowledged that as a group it does not have the right to speak for residents of town, but only for its own members — a small party of people who are strong supporters of the group’s agenda.

Their motivation is to fight a development because it is close to their own backyards, Melling said.

SORE’s lawyer Patrick Little was in attendance, though he did not address the court.

He said the points brought up were “very technical arguments on the efficiency of SORE as a group,” but that in his opinion Melling failed to acknowledge that SORE could have a large number of residents sign a petition saying they agree with what they’re doing.

David Bell, a member of SORE, said he was impressed with the turnout of SORE supporters, noting that with only one day’s notice a large crowd found their way to the courthouse for the hearing.

Bell said he was “very happy with the way the case was put forward.”

Developer Benny Marotta, owner of Two Sisters and Solmar, was not present.