Special to The Lake Report
Long-term construction hoarding along two properties on Queen Street has become an ongoing source of consternation for Niagara-on-the-Lake councillors, with the town looking at creating a bylaw to limit how long hoarding can be used.
Hoarding fences and signs are put up around ongoing construction projects to obscure public view and prevent unwarranted entry onto dangerous properties.
And, after roughly six years of hoarding on two Queen Street properties, councillors are looking for ways to hurry the projects along and maybe make the hoarding more visually appealing while it is up.
At a committee of the whole meeting March 4, Coun. Gary Burroughs raised the concern to senior staff in hopes that they could find a legal mechanism to limit the length of time that hoarding can be up.
It “can’t just be allowed to go on forever,” Burroughs saidl.
Although the town is looking to address the issue of hoardings in general, the conversation was spurred by projects at 165 Queen St., managed by Solmar Development Corp., and 65 Queen St., managed by Niacon Ltd. Construction Company.
Neither Solmar nor Niacon responded to requests for comment before press time.
In an interview on Tuesday, Burroughs said the lack of response and action from the companies is an issue of goodwill with the town and its residents.
“I understand that sometimes there’s legal things that have to be wrapped up. But the problem is the neighbours have put up with all this development for a long time and these companies should get it done.”
He said he will be pursuing the creation of a bylaw to limit hoarding.
During the meeting, director of operations Sheldon Randall told councillors the town had previously been in touch with both owners of the properties and that, due to challenges related to engineering and COVID, the “circumstances are out of our control.”
Burroughs decried using COVID as an excuse.
“I can’t believe Solmar is using COVID as an issue for not building. There’s about 25 buildings going on in downtown, including residential and commercial sites. They’re all over the place.”
Burroughs is concerned with the impact that the two unfinished construction sites have on neighbouring buildings and residents.
“The smaller property has a lot of water in the hole that they dug, and it can’t be healthy for the neighbours or anybody else,” Burroughs told council.
Standing pools of water can be nesting sites for various pests and bacteria, notably for mosquitoes, according to ontariotrails.on.ca.
“And not only that, it becomes a structural issue for the buildings next door. Because they’ve dug down quite a ways and then not completed,” Burroughs told The Lake Report.
“The two properties on each side are definitely affected by it and it doesn’t seem fair to me.”
As spring draws near the town is beginning to invest time in cleaning up the various public amenities that visitors will be using in NOTL. The businesses on Queen Street, near where the hoardings are located, are one of the main draws for visitors to the town.
In the past the Communities in Bloom committee was tasked with decorating the hoardings with images of what the properties will look like when completed.
But that was quite some time ago. “Back in 2015, or something like that,” Lord Mayor Betty Disero told council and the artwork has faded with time.
The town may once again take it upon itself to decorate the hoardings in a similar manner to lessen the impact of the properties as a visual eyesore on the community, and give residents and visitors “something to look forward to,” Coun. Wendy Cheropita said.
The idea of redecorating the hoardings to make them more visually appealing was favoured by councillors, but Burroughs didn’t want the town to misdirect its efforts.
“I don’t want to lose sight of the issue. This is fine about decorating the hoardings, (but) my initial problem is the hoardings. Somehow, we have to put time (limits) on these,” Burroughs told councillors.
He also stressed that this is not supposed to be an antagonistic issue between the town and developers, but rather an attempt for both to co-operate in order to see these buildings finished.
“It’s not for the benefit of only one side. It’s saying, ‘We want you to be successful, get on with it, and let’s make the town and Queen Street look more beautiful than it does now.’”