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Apr. 16, 2021 | Friday
Local News
Arch-i-text: The dig before you dig
If you're in the pink. (Brian Marshall)

Several times in the past year I have found myself in the position of having to wave a yellow caution flag in front of clients around a requirement introduced in the town’s new official plan. I’m speaking here of archeology.

To begin at the beginning, the history of settlement in Niagara stretches back far beyond the arrival of Europeans. In fact, this land has been in use for over 11,000 years.

It’s estimated that the first occupation occurred circa 100 AD by the Hopewell Culture, which was displaced by peoples of the Iroquoian linguistic family around 500 AD.

By 1400, Niagara was home to the Neutral Nation, which fell to attacks by the Haudenosaunee and then to smallpox. Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabeg (Mississauga) peoples moved into the area, and it was they who dealt with the immigrants from Europe and the Loyalists fleeing a newly formed United States.

This area has had a long and storied history of human occupation which, in places, still remains to be unearthed, studied and fully appreciated.

By now you may be thinking, “That’s fascinating, but what’s that got to do with waving a yellow caution flag?”

Well, with the passage of the new official plan, Niagara-on-the-Lake council set as a priority the archeological inventory of the lands within its boundaries.

In practice this means that if your property is located within the urban boundary areas defined as Old Town, Queenston, Virgil, St. Davids or Glendale and you apply for a building permit for work that will involve "disturbing the soil," you are required to have an archeological assessment of your entire property.

If, on the other hand, your lands are located outside these urban zones, you may or may not be required to undertake a similar assessment dependent largely on whether the work will occur in an area deemed to be of “archeological potential.”

To explain, this will involve engaging the services of a licensed archeologist who will perform a Stage 1 and 2 assessment; the latter referring to digging a series of small “test pits” at regular intervals around the property. The dirt is then screened to determine whether it contains finds of archeological significance. If nothing is found, you are good to go – for a fee of about $2,500.

On the other hand, if there are finds, be prepared for Stage 3; a much more extensive dig to define the extent and potential of the archeological site at an average cost between $10,000 and $20,000 (but maybe more, particularly if a Stage 4 investigation is required).

My advice: check with the town to see if archeology has already been performed on your property. Otherwise, be prepared and budget for it.