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Nov. 19, 2019 | Tuesday
Local News
SORE wins third party status victory
About About 260 people showed up at the Niagara-on-the-Lake community centre Thursday morning to show support for local activist group Save Our Rand Estate. The group was awarded party status in a legal matter between the Town of NOTL and Two Sisters Resorts Corp. (Richard Harley/Niagara Now)

THE LAKE REPORT

It's now three for three for activists in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

A crowd of about 260 people showed up for a public meeting at the NOTL community centre Thursday morning to show resident support for Save Our Rand Estate, a group that is fighting a hotel and subdivision development on historic properties in town, and advocating for protection of a heritage estate.

The group requested party status at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal in a matter between the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Two Sisters Resorts Corp.

Two Sisters Resorts Corp. and the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake both accepted SORE's request and meeting chair Blair Taylor granted SORE party status about 20 minutes in, making it SORE's third time being awarded party status by judicial bodies, the others being the Superior Court and the Conservation Review Board.

The Niagara Parks Commission was also granted party status in the matter. Representative Daniel Richer said it’s a “statutory duty” of developers to consult with the NPC on any developments within its jurisdiction, and furthermore that the town’s official plan states Niagara Parks must be consulted on any development adjacent to the Niagara Parkway.

David Bell, a representative of SORE, had also been scheduled to apply for party status, but withdrew his application during the meeting, saying that for the sake of simplicity SORE would adequately represent his needs.

All parties agreed to adjourn the meeting for eight weeks.

Davies Howes lawyer Michael Melling asked media to leave before addressing stragglers leftover from a meetin during which local activist group Save Our Rand Estate was granted party status.

After the meeting, Two Sisters' lawyer Michael Melling addressed people who stuck around to hear a few words from himself and Two Sisters. He asked local media to leave before he would speak. None of the local media in attendance left the room.

“So here is what I’m able to share with you since the media won’t leave and what I say will now be on the record,” Melling said.

“When I was retained on this file in January, I candidly didn’t know what I was getting into, but since January I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand what has happened here.

"Once I felt I had a sufficient understanding, I asked my client for permission to, and received instructions to, reach out to the lawyers for the town and SORE association, to talk to them about trying to settle the case ... And I said, among other things, that I would consent to SORE obtaining the party status it obtained today.

"I said I would prefer therefore if the discussions among their lawyers and their expert witnesses and their clients remained confidential. And the other parties agreed to that. You may have noticed, since I was engaged, that my client has gone dark in the media. That is because of me … So regardless of what you might read in the media, while our clients are in good faith discussions with the town and with the SORE association, you won’t be hearing from us in the media. I think that the dialogue has in some respects thus far been counterproductive.”

Lyle Hall, core SORE member, said he thinks Mellings comments should be clarified.

"It is only the heritage experts who are talking and I have no idea if there is any reasonable prospect of them reaching common ground. There are no other experts meetings planned or under discussion to my knowledge," Hall said.

"Any suggestion by Melling that agreement on Marotta's convention centre and hotel plans can be reached will depend entirely on four things: his client's willingness to make material changes to his proposal to respect the heritage assets on the entire estate; restore the landscape features he destroyed last November; bring it into conformity with the town's official plan and minimize adverse impacts to the residential neighbourhood in which it sits."

David Auger, a resident who was in attendance, said he thinks people should be careful about believing anything that comes from the “other side."

“Has the community believed most of what has been said by the other party? No. The other party (Marotta) has said, ‘trees, nobody loves trees more than I do,’ and he’s on film saying that. That was just before the mass killing of trees. So I take it all with a grain of salt," Auger said. "I’ve never seen a leopard change its spots before.”

The delay in the procedure is understandable, he said, though he is concerned the provincial government might effectively bring back the Ontario Municipal Board, which was seen to often favour developers.

“Is that going to supersede what has happened in this process? That’s my fear.”

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