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Niagara Falls
Monday, June 5, 2023
Marotta company sues town for $1 million in land dispute

Equity Venture, a company associated with Solmar Development Corp. and developer Benny Marotta, is suing the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake for $1 million.

The lawsuit alleges the town significantly reduced or eliminated the options available for servicing on a vacant lot at 412 Four Mile Creek Rd. at the corner of Line 9, where Marotta plans to build a commercial plaza next to his Cannery Park subdivision.

It alleges the town allowed a necessary strip of land for serving the plaza to remain in private hands and be used for another subdivision (The Vintages), preventing the plaza from accessing the necessary services.

The statement of claim alleges that “at all material times, the town was aware that the plaintiff was the owner of the lands, that the plaintiff intended to develop the lands for commercial purposes and that the plaintiff's ability to efficiently develop the lands would require the town to consider its interests (including servicing requirements) in concert with developments in the surrounding area.”

“We regret having to have taken this action, but the town left us little choice,” Marotta said in an emailed statement.

“The best practices for servicing the plaza would require the use of a very narrow strip of land adjacent to both the lot and (The Vintages) subdivision. Everyone seemed to understand that the use of this narrow strip of land was the best engineering solution. Judging by the town’s actions, that didn’t matter,” Marotta said.

The town approved the use of the lot for a commercial plaza on Sept. 17, 2018, while the subdivision itself had been draft approved on April 10, 2017.

“At some point between draft and final approval of the subdivision, the town merged the strip with the larger condominium block, and allowed the strip to remain in private hands without regard to our servicing needs. This was in complete disregard of  best servicing practices and is shocking given the municipality’s obligation to act in the public interest,” Marotta said.

His company alleges the town also approved a road into the subdivision that is 15 metres wide, contrary to the town’s urban street design policy which requires a minimum width of at least 18 metres.

“While we were not notified of the merger of the narrow strip when it was happening, we had actually asked the town not to compromise the strip and interfere with our servicing. We were ignored. The town’s actions created significant servicing issues that could have been avoided.”

Marotta said the owner of the subdivision has now agreed that the narrow strip will be separated from the condo block and conveyed to the town, “meaning that best practices servicing, which is in everybody’s best interest, the public interest, can now be done.”

“This is all we pursued right from the start,” Marotta said.

However, despite the agreement with the private subdivision owner, Marotta said he will seek damages from the town for delaying his project.

“Even with the planned conveyance, the fact remains that we have incurred damages as a result of the delay caused by the town's actions. As of now, the lawsuit is based on a claim of negligence. If we later determine that the town’s actions were intentional, our lawyers will amend the law suit accordingly,” Marotta said.

“It’s unfortunate that we have had to take such costly and draconian steps to facilitate a properly serviced development in the town. Had the town acted properly in the first place, none of this would have been necessary. We hope that this lawsuit will bring home to the town that it cannot treat people this way.”

The town did not respond to questions about the lawsuit before press time.

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