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May. 18, 2022 | Wednesday
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Historic designation means Rand Estate will be protected, mayor says
An old entrance to the Rand Estate in Niagara-on-the-Lake. File photo

With Niagara-on-the-Lake councillors unanimously agreeing to designate the Rand Estate as being of historical significance, any future development of the site means historic features on the property will have to be preserved, the mayor says.

NOTL Lord Mayor Betty Disero said the move means certain features, such as the main buildings and the century-old Dunnington-Grubb landscaping, must be protected.

"(Now) there are rules and criteria that need to be followed when you're developing that site," she said.

Council designated two properties that make up the estate, 177 and 244 John St. E., during its final meeting of 2020 on Dec. 21.

She said it is a positive move for the town.

"And it's something that I've believed since the beginning is that (if) you want to develop the site, let's figure out what heritage, what needs to be protected and go from there," she said.

"It's part of our part of our job as a council and our obligation to protect the heritage aspects in the town, and so I'm relieved that at this point that we've been able to designate what is special about that site and move forward."

Developer Benny Marotta, owner of Two Sisters Resorts Corp., which owns the properties, had planned to build a hotel and conference centre on the land.

However, after legal battles and vocal opposition from a resident group called Save Our Rand Estate (SORE), the property has been put back on the market with a pricetag of $19 million.

Lyle Hall, a spokesperson for SORE, said the group is happy to finally see the historic designation finalized.

"SORE is pleased to see council following through on the previous council's decision to protect the heritage assets of the Rand Estate under the Heritage Act," Hall said.

"It's unfortunate that Benny Marotta delayed this by over two years by bringing spurious legal challenges to the courts and the Conservation Review Board. SORE looks forward to a successful outcome of the town's prosecution of the Marotta companies for the outrageous clear-cutting of a large part of the Rand Estate‎ in November of 2018."

Marotta said he had always agreed to designate the three buildings within the Rand Estate and the Dunnington-Grubb landscape features in front of the main Rand house.

"I suppose members of SORE and council needed to create some drama," he said of the designation.

"In my opinion council has acted only to please the SORE group. It is irresponsible, incompetent and inexperienced behaviour. This is what you get when you have a politically motivated council that makes decisions out of fear of disappointing a small and aggressive group of people — at the expense of taxpayers and businesses," he told The Lake Report.

"For a small town to have a dysfunctional council that shows its interest is not for the benefit of the municipality, something went wrong during the past election."

Marotta said as far as a potential sale of the estate, "We have interested buyers and we are exploring our options."