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Sunday, August 7, 2022
Survey finds 75% dislike proposed gateway obelisk

People really don't like the proposed new design for the entranceway to Old Town, a survey has found.

The proposed gateway drew a lot of negative criticism in a Join the Conversation survey conducted by the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The survey had 178 respondents, 67 more than the average of 111 for NOTL surveys. The number of responses varied from question to question.

Respondents were unhappy with the inclusion of an 25-foot tall obelisk, the imposing nature of a proposed wall and alterations to the intersection of Mississagua and Queen streets.

“The results came back quite negative towards the design. There were some concerns about the obelisk,” chief administrator Marnie Cluckie told councillors Friday.

A total of 176 people responded to a question asking if they supported the obelisk as presented and 75.6 per cent, or 133 people, said they were not.

Another question asked respondents for their thoughts on the obelisk. In all, 108 people answered this question and the town shared the three most common answers: 51 people said they wanted the obelisk completely removed, 19 said the entranceway should remain as it is and 27 people said they wanted the obelisk redesigned.

One open-ended question asked respondents if they had any further comments on the entranceway.

Of the 105 responses to that question, 38 said they wanted the proposal redesigned, 34 felt the entranceway should stay as it is and 33 said they wanted the alterations to the intersection at Mississagua and Queen streets removed.

The majority of survey respondents were also unhappy with the proposed length and height of the wall. The current design of the wall is 40 feet long, eight feet high on one side and 4.5 feet high for more than half of its length.

People overwhelmingly suggested the wall should be lower and shorter.

In June, the NOTL Conservancy sent a letter to the municipal heritage committee outlining its opposition to the project. 

“We feel strongly that the installation of this size is not needed,” the conservancy's letter reads.

The group said the design would be an “intrusion” and a “distraction” from the natural landscape.

Absent from the information report on the survey were the detailed text responses from members of the public.

Cluckie said that releasing the detailed answers may infringe on “best practices” due to the overwhelming negativity of the comments.

“We probably all know the term keyboard warrior,” Cluckie said.

“Sometimes when people are filling out those items online they can be much harsher than they would be normally and people can say things that are very offensive and abrasive.”

The detailed comments will only be shared with councillors during a private session, Cluckie said. This is in keeping with the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, according to the information report.

The project is being funded by a $250,000 donation from the Gerald Kowalchuk Family Fund.

Coun. Wendy Cheropita said she spoke with Kowalchuck and he “is very, very open to working with staff on the recommendations that have come through the survey and accepting and validating the comments that have come from our residents.”

Staff were directed to work with Kowalchuk on the next steps for the project now that the public has shared its opinions on the design.