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Jan. 29, 2022 | Saturday
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Year in Review – 2021: A Year of Living Anxiously
June 3 front page. (File)

July 1 front page

Life in 2021 began in the midst of a growing COVID-19 pandemic, with no end in sight.

And it ended in much the same way, with the highly transmissible Omicron variant wreaking havoc worldwide and here at home. It really was a year full of anxiety.

Once again, our front-line workers in hospitals and clinics, pharmacies and medical centres, all our emergency services, grocery stores, essential retailers and service providers, plus hundreds of volunteers in Niagara-on-the- Lake made the difference. And they are continuing to do so.

While the pandemic was the biggest news of 2021, we also enjoyed periods of normalcy as life returned to what it once was. Here are some of the news highlights of the past year:

JANUARY

Jan. 7 edition: Five NOTL doctors and the entire Niagara North Family Health Team announce they are planning to move to The Village plaza to a yet-to-be-constructed building behind the CIBC. The move was to happen by January 2022, but construction is still underway.

Police shot and killed a man in Niagara-on-the-Lake on Jan. 5 after a chase that started in Niagara Falls. The shooting occurred on the Niagara Parkway near Inniskillin Wines after police chased a red pickup truck at high speed from near Lundy’s Lane all the way to NOTL.

After months of dodging COVID-19, two of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s long-term care homes are now in the midst of outbreaks and the province is facing a major lockdown.

NOTL made its way to centre stage for CBC’s national New Year’s Eve broadcast. The show was hosted by Canadian comedy icon Rick Mercer and Wayne Gretzky Estates.

Jan. 14: A resident of the Niagara Long Term Care Residence dies after contracting COVID-19 and cases in NOTL surged to their highest level since the pandemic began, quadrupling in the past week.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro’s former vice-president of operations is charged with fraud after more than $425,000 was stolen from the utility. Kazi Marouf, 67, repays all the money and will later plead guilty but will not serve any jail time.

The much-anticipated COVID-19 vaccine is slowly being rolled out in Niagara, but pharmacist Sean Simpson urges the federal and provincial governments in getting front-line health workers and vulnerable seniors jabbed.

Mild, rainy weather means the icewine harvest will be late and the smallest ever, growers say.

Jan. 21: NOTL long-term care home deaths due to COVID rise to five as positive cases surge. A large outbreak at Niagara Long Term Care grows to 90 active cases, including 68 residents and 22 staff.

Meanwhile, Canadian snowbirds wanting to escape to the southern United States have been flocking to NOTL’s airport to hop on a helicopter for a quick flight to Buffalo – then hopping in their car and heading to warmer climates. The $1,200 flights for up to three people includes cross-border transportation of your vehicle.

Upper Canada Lodge resident Maria Dos Santos is the first long-term care resident in town to receive a COVID vaccine, administered by Dr. Tim Bastedo.

The annual Icewine Festival is cancelled, another victim of COVID.

Jan. 28 front page

Jan. 28: The Gaio family wins big on TV’s ‘Family Feud Canada’ as NOTLers eagerly watch and cheer on the hometown gang.

Cases of COVID-19 in NOTL long-term care homes have slowly started to fall, but facilities continue to take all precautions. One resident of Radiant Care Pleasant Manor in Virgil dies from the virus. NOTL has 94 active cases.

Good news: While taxes are rising about 2 per cent, the Town of NOTL expects to see a small operating surplus thanks to a “no frills” budget.

Is pet grooming an essential service in the midst of the pandemic? Groomers say yes, the town says no, but groomers are allowed to operate in some municipalities. Controversy dogs the industry.

FEBRUARY

Feb. 4: Amid the pandemic, with revenue from items like parking fees declining the town needs to find a way to find new sources of revenue, says budget chief Coun. Allan Bisback. And a municipal accommodation tax (a levy on hotel rooms and rentals) is one possibility. Almost a year later, heated debate on that idea continues.

With businesses facing tough times due to the pandemic, some retailers see a silver lining ­– the U.S. border is closed and more Canadians are making NOTL a destination.

After 11 deaths in one NOTL care home and a spike in COVID cases across town in January, pandemic statistics show area long-term care homes might have turned the corner. Niagara Long Term Care on Wellington Street has only six active cases now, down from 70 a week earlier.

Feb. 11: A massive fire at a storage property on Townline Road causes an estimated $2.5 million in damage to several businesses. High-end boats and vehicles were among the items destroyed. GoFundMe campaigns are launched to help the businesses recover.

NOTL elementary school students returned to the classroom this week and schools are taking extra precautions to prevent potential spread of COVID.

Niagara should stay in lockdown a bit longer and not rush to reopen, says the region’s acting chief medical officer of health, Dr. Mustafa Hirji. A provincial stay-at-home order remains in effect and regions with fewer COVID cases will open up soon.

Vaccines have helped NOTL’s long-term care homes see a sharp decline in new COVID-19 cases after month-long outbreaks led to 14 COVID-related deaths, Hirji says.

Feb. 18: NOTL first major snowfall of the season turns the town into a winter wonderland and brings out neighbours and Good Samaritans to help clean up after the deluge.

Lord Mayor Betty Disero says people need to “remain vigilant” after the provincial stay-at-home order is lifted and Niagara Region moves into grey-lockdown pandemic status.

As many businesses finally reopen, operators say the lockdown was tough and many worry whether stores, restaurants and services will recover.

In the wake of the major blaze on Townline Road, business owners and people who had goods stored on the site reflect on their losses and how they’ll move forward.

Feb. 25: More than 15 NOTL volunteers are given special honours from the province of Ontario for their work in the community, receiving the Ontario Volunteer Service Awards during a virtual ceremony.

With the much-anticipated COVID vaccine rollout coming soon, Niagara Region’s public health department wants to use the NOTL Community Centre to dispense the jabs, Lord Mayor Betty Disero says.

After 53 days in outbreak status and two resident deaths, Virgil’s Pleasant Manor is now free of COVID-19 cases, Radiant Care CEO Tim Siemens says.

Citing restrictive measures on the rehearsal and performance of brass and wind instruments, and on singing, the Shaw Festival cancels its major 2021 production of “Gypsy: A Musical Fable” and delays it till 2023.

MARCH

March 4: Dangerous COVID-19 variants are making their way to Niagara and public health officials are investigating at least 40 cases.

After weeks of lockdown and no visiting, families of some NOTL nursing home residents have at least been able to make “window visits.” Children and grandchildren can only see their relatives through room windows, but it’s a welcome change for everyone.

Andrew Peller Limited buys the neighbouring Riverbend Inn operation in NOTL, purchasing the historic 17-acre vineyard property and 21-room hotel and restaurant for $10 million.

With the pandemic, coyote sightings have become more commonplace, and a Niagara coyote hunter talks about how the service he provides is needed now as the animals encroach on urban areas.

March 11 front page.

March 11: Niagara-on-the-Lake learns it is receiving $427,007 from the province to help cover COVID-related costs.

Town council is taking steps to prevent the destruction of healthy trees on municipal property. Before town trees can be removed to make way for housing construction, a thorough assessment will be necessary, councillors decided.

Councillors approved plans to consider ways to aid NOTL’s ailing short-term rental industry – including a 30 per cent cut to annual licence fees – after a presentation by the president of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Bed & Breakfast Association.

With COVID variant cases rising across Niagara, public health is “in a race to get vaccines into arms,” chief medical officer Dr. Mustafa Hirji says.

March 18: NOTL schedules three vaccine clinics to get shots to the town’s 1,300 residents over age 80. And the Niagara Regional Native Centre on Airport Road vaccinates about 500 people at its one-day clinic.

Long-term construction hoarding at two properties on Queen Street has become an ongoing source of consternation for NOTL councillors, who are considering creating a bylaw to limit how long hoarding can be used. The two separate projects are managed by Solmar Development Corp. and Niacon Ltd. Construction Company.

Developer Benny Marotta’s company Solmar has dropped a controversial lawsuit challenging the town’s historic designation of two properties that make up the Rand Estate, 177 and 244 John St. E.

A new NOTL bylaw will ban drinking and barbecuing in most municipal parks. The idea sparks some heated opposition in the community.

March 25: Eager over-80 NOTLers flock to the community centre to get their first dose of the COVID vaccine. They say the whole process was seamless and well-organized.

Meanwhile, almost everyone 80-plus in Niagara has received at least one COVID shot or has an appointment for the vaccine, the region’s public health agency says.

The Shaw Festival continues to kick the pandemic to the side, posting a $185,000 surplus and defying the devastation many arts organizations are facing in the year-long global battle with COVID-19.

An electrical malfunction caused the massive February fire that did more than $1 million in damage to businesses housed in three huge, repurposed former barns on Townline Road, the Ontario fire marshal says.

APRIL

April 1: Developer Hummel Properties Inc. is suing the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake for damages over an interim control bylaw passed just days after council was sworn in on Dec. 3, 2018. The developer alleges an “insidious scheme” by the mayor and councillors.

Niagara’s top doctor says COVID-19 worries could start to ease by mid-May, thanks to vaccinations.

The provincial vaccine booking system opened to people aged 70 to 74 caused a major frustration for some Niagara residents looking to grab their jab. Some had to travel to Hamilton to get their shot.

With cases of COVID-19 rising across the region and nicer weather around the corner, NOTL prepares to accommodate tourists by posting safety signs, reopening public washrooms in Old Town and reinstating staff for public education and cleaning.

April 8: In the ongoing legal battle between Hummel Properties Ltd. and the Town of NOTL, the municipality says it acted legally when it implemented a bylaw to freeze all development in Old Town.

Simpson’s Pharmacy in NOTL starts vaccinating some of the 4,000 people on its waiting list.

At the same time, NOTL is continuing to see thousands of visitors entering town on weekends, despite pleas from public health officials across Ontario for people to stay home and not travel out of their region.

The town hires a “fairness monitor” to oversee the potential sale of the former NOTL hospital site.

Wind and water have seriously damaged the stone breakwater “groyne” on NOTL’s waterfront. The town is trying to figure out how to fix the $300,000 project – and who is responsible.

April 15: When Premier Doug Ford announced a new shutdown two weeks ago, small businesses had to close their doors once again, leaving some owners frustrated as they scramble to adapt. Again. The back-and-forth lockdowns are painful, NOTL business operators say.

The town is handing out disposable masks to visitors and has assigned staff to town parks to help bylaw officers ensure people understand what’s required.

As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Niagara and across the province, ICU and hospital admissions are passing totals from the peak of the second wave and far exceeding what they were during the first wave, says Niagara’s chief medical officer.

After no one showed serious interest in buying the Rand Estate for $19 million, developer Benny Marotta has taken the property off the market.

April 22: The Town of Niagara-on- the-Lake and council acted legally in instituting a 2018 development freeze and 2019 extension of the freeze, a Superior Court justice rules, rejecting developer Rainer Hummel’s lawsuit. In July, Hummel launches an appeal of the verdict.

People were swearing, yelling “and even spitting” at bylaw officers on the weekend as they tried to enforce COVID-19 safety regulations, chief administrator Marnie Cluckie tells councillors.

A town inclusivity committee online survey finds concerns about racism and lack of diversity. The poll only attracted 173 responses but noted instances of homophobia, NIMBYism and lack of female representation on town committees.

After deliberating the pros and cons of having enlarged patios pushing out onto Queen Street, town council extends the popular program until Jan. 1, 2022.

April 29: About 30 per cent of NOTL residents say they face hostility based on how long they have lived here, according to a survey conducted by the town’s inclusivity and diversity committee.

Propane barbecues will be allowed in three of NOTL’s parks after an outright ban of them sparked a community backlash – but some councillors feel that a prohibition on barbecues in any parks is exclusionary.

The town wants to hear from residents about the use of Ryerson Park, located along Niagara Boulevard in the Chautauqua neighbourhood, after complaints of overuse of the small park.

The town’s irrigation system needs a major overhaul because it can’t meet demand when farms need water the most, councillors are told.

MAY

May 6: Development firm Solmar (Niagara 2) Inc. wants to build 191 units on part of the Rand Estate property, comprising 125 single-family dwellings and 66 semi-detached homes. The plan immediately sparks opposition from residents who say it is not appropriate for the historic site.

Two NOTL pharmacies that had been busy inoculating patients against COVID-19 have been forced to stop. They have run out of vaccine and don’t know when or if the provincial health ministry will replenish their supply.

A group of neighbours and vineyard owners is fighting a request from Queenston Mile Vineyards for a zoning change, accusing the winery of trying to covertly operate as an events space and saying it is not producing wine on the property.

NOTL will host tennis and sailing for 2022 Canada Summer Games. Tennis will be played at the Memorial Park courts and the NOTL Sailing Club will be hosting the sailing races.

May 13: COVID cases are trending downward, but the province’s stay-at-home order should be extended until mid-June, Niagara’s chief medical officer says.

Coun. Erwin Wiens and his wife Dorothy Soo-Wiens speak about their experiences with racist attitudes and defend Erwin’s view that NOTL is “very wealthy, very privileged” and needs to do a better job at being inclusive.

A town survey about problems around Ryerson Park reveals residents are concerned chiefly with crowded on-street parking, increased traffic and fears about pedestrian safety.

Instead of doing a study, as recommended by town staff, Lord Mayor Betty Disero pushes through a motion to install a four-way stop sign at the intersection of Garrison Village Drive, Perez Road and Jordan Street, at the request of residents of the Village neighbourhood. If it turns out to not be needed, “then we remove it,” the mayor said.

May 20: A fire believed to have spread from a neighbour’s shed causes an estimated $1.5 million damage to a home on Simcoe Street.

Niagara Shores Park, a natural gem on Lake Ontario with beautiful sunsets and stunning views of the Toronto skyline, could be fully reopened to the public as early as next summer, Parks Canada says.

Mobile phone data shows over 100,000 people entered NOTL the previous weekend as residents and visitors grow tired of indoor and outdoor restrictions. On the heels of the provincial government extending the latest stay-at-home order to June 2, downtown NOTL was packed.

In response to complaints and concerns about congestion and crowding, town council orders parking restrictions and hikes fines near Ryerson Park. The plan works, as throughout the busy summer, problems are much reduced.

May 27 front page.

May 27: It’s asparagus season in Niagara so we invited some of the area’s top chefs to share their asparagus (recipe) tips. Delicious.

Vaccines are working and contributing to a sharp decline in COVID cases, says Niagara’s top doctor.

With military-like precision, a team of doctors, nurses and staff from the Niagara North Family Health Team vaccinated about 150 people at a special one-day clinic at the old NOTL hospital.

Life is getting back to what used to be normal – golf courses are open, pickleball and resume and the Virgil splash pad and town parks offer some relief as people mark the May 24 long weekend.

JUNE

June 3: The Lake Report celebrates the culmination of a 15-week “Pandemic Heroes” feature campaign with a celebration of YOU, our readers and residents, with a souvenir four-page wrap saluting the efforts of all those who made the essential sacrifices, to stay home, stay healthy and stay safe as much as possible.

The Niagara Regional Native Centre burns a sacred fire in memory of the 215 children whose remains were found buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in B.C.

And a NOTL mother helps organize a memorial at St. Michael Catholic Elementary School, placing children’s shoes near the front entrance in recognition of the 215 Indigenous children found buried near the Kamloops residential school.

The Shaw Festival joins an aggressive provincewide campaign asking the public to demand the reopening of live theatre in Ontario. The #FairnessForArtsON campaign urges people to send letters to the premier, government ministers, MPPs, municipal leaders and other representatives.

June 10: Incidents involving brazen coyotes have been occurring frequently in NOTL and this week a 14-year-old boy was attacked in Virgil. Billy Pillitteri-Smith suffered some scratches and a minor wound, requiring him to undergo a series of rabies shots.

The first NOTL fruit festival of the season, the Strawberry Festival put on by St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, has been cancelled again. Later, we’ll learn that the Cherry Festival in July and Peach Festival in August also will not go ahead as planned.

Artist Filomena Pisano expresses frustration that an anti-masker fellow tenant in the old Virgil Public School hosted maskless indoor classes for children in March and violated pandemic protocols.

Now that the province has allowed patios to reopen on Friday, wineries are finally able to set up their outdoor tasting spaces, a welcome reprieve after a difficult year of restrictions and uncertainty.

June 17: NOTL resident Jordon Williams urges the town to install a rainbow crosswalk in Old Town to recognize the LGBTQ+ community and Indigenous and other marginalized groups. Six months later, council has approved the idea but some residents have been vocal about not spending public money on a crosswalk without consulting residents first.

The sounds of gunshots, barking dogs, and smoke and stun grenades disrupted a quiet St. Davids neighbourhood as police raided a home on Kenmir Avenue and arrested two people on drug trafficking and gun charges. Fentanyl and $84,000 in cash were seized, police say.

A coyote expert tells The Lake Report culling is ineffective, but preventive measures – like sealing garbage cans – are essential to curb coyote aggression, something the Town of NOTL says it is already doing. A farm worker was bitten on a grape farm near Virgil, adding another violent example to the increasing incidents around town.

A 191-unit subdivision proposed by Solmar (Niagara 2) Inc. on the historic Rand Estate draws heated comments and pointed questions from residents during a virtual open house.

Queen Street was as busy as Queen’s Royal Park on Saturday as visitors and locals thronged together to enjoy the first step of Ontario’s reopening plan.

June 24: Kids sports, including soccer and lacrosse, plus skateboards and splash pads are back and families are overjoyed to be back outside again.

A proposed housing development on the old Parliament Oak school property has some nearby residents angry and ready to fight back against the developer – and one elderly couple feeling they are being driven out of their ancestral home.

We bring you the story of the MacSween family, farmers famous for their roadside Quiet Acres fruit market – and a major tender fruit operation.

Happy NOTLers queue up to get their second COVID vaccination jab at a special clinic at the community centre.

After eight years with the Town of NOTL, municipal clerk Peter Todd is fired by new chief administrator Marnie Cluckie. The move was unannounced and no reason or details were given.

JULY

July 1: The Lake Report marks Canada Day with a sombre front page dedicated to the Indigenous children lost to the country’s residential school system. A flag at half-mast is depicted surrounded by 1,140 stars, representing children lost in Kamloops, Cowessess and lesser known sites in Regina, Brandon and Lestock.

Hundreds of people gather at Queenston Heights in NOTL for a maskless political rally for Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada. Attendees and speakers promote a variety of conspiracy theories and other fringe points of view.

It’s time for a haircut. The province is entering Stage 2 of reopening, which means people can now gather in groups of 25 outdoors and groups of five indoors.

As NOTL grapples with Canada’s scandal over the history of residential schools, the town’s Ryerson Park may soon see its name changed, Lord Mayor Betty Disero says.

Niagara-on-the-Lake’s tennis courts are getting a $90,000 upgrade, just in time for the Canada Summer Games in 2022.

July 8: The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority will be taking down about 400 ash and Manitoba maple trees along Two Mile Creek near Butler’s Burial Ground this month. The forest rejuvenation project will see about four hectares of trees removed and replaced with native tree species.

Opposition to the Parliament Oak development proposal heats up, with residents telling a virtual open house that the plan is “outrageous,” inappropriate and ignores the character of NOTL’s Old Town area.

A lawn sign that celebrates one couple’s “traditional marriage” has drawn loud criticism from neighbours and NOTL residents for being a mes-sage of homophobia and intolerance.

Walkers in the month-long Niagara-on-the-Lake Step Challenge smashed the original goal of 20 million steps and then easily exceeded the revised goal of 40 million. Final tally: 50,232,770 total steps logged.

July 15: Lukas Smith, a 41-year-old father of three, suffers fatal injuries when hit by a car on Irvine Road near Scott Street, not far from the home he built for his family. He was cycling with his son Riley, 13, when they stopped so Smith could fix his son’s bike at the side of the road.

Officials from Provincial Animal Welfare Services seized more than 150 dogs from a rented home at 115 Delater St. A Lincoln County Humane Society spokesperson said she expected the dogs would eventually be adopted.

Ontario is about to enter Step 3 of its reopening plan, and retailers and restaurant operators are excited for the increased capacity, even without foreign tourism. The Canada-U.S. border remains closed.

Newark Neighbours food bank has a shiny new commercial fridge, thanks to a donation from the NOTL Legion Branch 124. Food bank co-ordinator Cindy Grant said the fridge means they can store fresh food and will help greatly with donations from the community garden.

July 22 front page.

July 22: The water at Queen’s Royal Beach is significantly cleaner now than it was prior to 2017, water tests results show. The change is due in part to remedial actions taken by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and the Town of NOTL after a storm water drain allowed high levels of E. coli to reach the lake.

Council decides to give the public two more weeks to offer their comments on the proposed gateway at the intersection of Mississagua and Queen streets. The current design, featuring a 25-foot obelisk, has sparked some loud, negative feedback, prompting the extension.

NOTL’s inaugural Farm Workers Hub attracts more than 100 migrant workers, who turned out to receive donations from community members across the municipality.

With the Delta variant growing, flu season on the horizon and children under 12 not yet eligible for COVID vaccines, NOTL pharmacist Sean Simpson worries people who have hesitated about getting the shot could cause serious problems for themselves and those youngsters who are unvaccinated. He urges everyone to get the jab.

July 29: With just over one-third of 12- to 17-year-olds fully vaccinated, Niagara Region public health is pushing hard for young people to get their shots before school resumes in September.

The NOTL Public Library is branching out and, together with the town’s Communities in Bloom committee, has opened a market stand – inside the library. It’s a new place for NOTLers to get fresh veggies – for free, or an optional donation.

The future is looking good for the Pedal Pub a year after town council tried to bar it from operating in NOTL. Council has asked town staff to work with the Pedal Pub and plan alternative routes so the popular ride does not roll down Queen Street and can continue operating.

Big changes are coming to how drivers get into and out of Old Town as the pivotal intersection of Queen Street and Mississagua streets will become a three-way stop. A traffic-calming “bump out” will also be included in the pilot project. Six months later, the bump out is still a target of opponents.

AUGUST

Aug. 5: NOTL’s Elaine Tanner, a swimming star of the 1968 Summer Olympics, revels in the remarkable exploits of Canada’s female swimmers at the Tokyo Games.

A St. Andrews Glen couple have been displaying and giving away anti-hate signs in their neighbourhood, saying there is never a wrong time to affirm that you stand against hateful ideologies.

Finally, more than 18 months after it last hit the stage, the Shaw Festival officially resumes indoor shows when “Sherlock Holmes and the Raven’s Curse” debuts at the Festival Theatre.

The Town of NOTL launches a short-term rental compliance program, offering 24/7 support for complaints against licensed rentals. The program, administered by Granicus, will also help the town crack down on unlicensed operators.

Aug. 12 front page.

Aug. 12: The men served up some sizzle but the women supplied the drama during a humid, steamy championship weekend at the NOTL Golf Club. James Grigjanis-Meusel easily defended his men’s open crown with a 16-shot win but the women’s championship went to four extra holes before Yolanda Henry edges Louise Robitaille to win her second straight title.

And the NOTL Tennis Club’s mixed doubles tournament was filled with close matches as the club hosted its first tourney since 2019.

Councillors express frustration with the increased pace of development in NOTL and the delayed approval of the town’s official plan by the Region of Niagara.

Aug. 19: The governing Liberals pull the plug and launch the country on a federal election. All five main party candidates are ready to run in Niagara Falls riding, which includes NOTL and Fort Erie.

Fully vaccinated Americans have been allowed into Canada since Aug. 9 and area businesses are eager to welcome back our neighbours from south of the border and the money they bring. But business operators say they have seen few Americans so far.

Dogs will continue to be allowed to run free on part of the Commons in NOTL, but Parks Canada is restricting off-leash pets to the large field just north of John Street. New signs will be installed to make clear exactly where dogs can roam off-leash.

Delta variant cases are on the rise in Niagara but lockdowns can be avoided if enough people are vaccinated, says the region’s chief medical officer.

Aug. 26: The Lake Report announces plans to host an in-person federal all-candidates meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 7, at Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery in St. Davids.

The Balls Beach stone breakwater collapsed in March due to extreme weather caused by climate change and a design that wasn’t prepared to deal with those problems, councillors are told.

The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is inviting expressions of interest about how the old NOTL hospital site could be used and The Lake Report launches a new series inviting residents to have their say and offer their ideas for this iconic location.

For the first time in 15 years, the Shaw Guild Garden Tour is stepping away from its regular early summer date in June, to now take place in September.

NOTL councillors are fully vaccinated but there has been no decision yet if shots will be mandatory for all town employees, the mayor says.

SEPTEMBER

Sept. 2: NOTL council approves a municipal accommodation tax as part of its 2022 budget. It’s not a new idea: councillors approved the same tax in January 2020 and then quickly reversed themselves amid opposition from the hospitality industry. The new plan will only apply to operations with five or more rooms, meaning the vast majority of short-term rentals will not collect it.

After a shortened season, the NOTL Soccer Club’s 2021 finale is marked with a day of fun and games for the kids.

The annual Terry Fox Run is returning to NOTL on Sept. 19 but again this year it will be a virtual affair due to COVID, says organizer Joan King.

NOTL’s Niagara Motors GMC dealership celebrates its 75th anniversary in true car-lover fashion – with a car show and a barbecue fundraiser for Red Roof Retreat.

Sept. 9 front page.

Sept. 9: COVID-19 recovery, vaccine mandates and climate change are some of the big topics federal candidates discussed during a live debate sponsored by The Lake Report at Ravine Estate Winery.

It’s been 20 years since the 9/11 terror attacks changed life as we knew it. We asked NOTL residents from some of their recollections of that time.

People really don’t like the proposed new design for the entranceway to Old Town, especially the inclusion of a 25-foot tall obelisk, the imposing nature of a proposed wall and alterations to the intersection of Mississagua and Queen streets, a town survey finds.

Members of the Niagara North Family Health Team in Virgil will be relocating temporarily to the old NOTL hospital at the end of December while they await construction of the new Village Medical Centre near Shoppers Drug Mart.

Sept. 16: With the federal election looming, the first day of advance polls at the Virgil arena and the NOTL Community Centre were chaotic and disorganized, resulting in long waits and some people leaving without casting a ballot, some residents say.

Only 12 of 255 licensed short-term rentals in Niagara-on-the-Lake would have to collect the town’s new accommodation tax, which targets properties with five or more rooms, research by The Lake Report discovers.

NOTL first responders take part in a small but solemn ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

A parking lot and road were built without permission on top of an environmental conservation area near the Holiday Inn on York Road and now the developer is looking to get approval after the fact by having the area rezoned.

Sept. 23: Conservative incumbent Tony Baldinelli is again victorious, winning his federal seat by about 3,100 votes over his nearest rival, Liberal Andrea Kaiser.

In a two-hour weekend blitz, volunteers scoop up a dozen large bags of recycling and garbage along the Niagara Parkway as part of a World Cleanup Day event organized by the town’s environmental advisory committee.

Darren Werner, 58, has been missing since Sept. 16 when police say he was last seen near Townline Road. Werner owns the property at 1238 Townline Rd. that was the site of a multi-million fire in February.

New vaccine rules make indoor dining feel safer, patrons say. Businesses so far say they are having no issues requesting proof of vaccination, but some fear pushback from customers.

Sept. 30: A former senior executive of NOTL Hydro, who stole more than $425,000 from the utility and then repaid it all, will not spend any time in jail. Kazi Marouf, who was vice-president of operations, was given a conditional sentence of two years less a day when he appeared via Zoom in a St. Catharines courtroom.

A new gateway design chosen for the entranceway to Old Town does not feature a controversial obelisk and aims to be more reminiscent of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s heritage buildings.

National Truth and Reconciliation Day should be focused on education about residential schools, says Shaw Festival actor Julie Lumsden, a Métis who hails from Manitoba. The day – Thursday, Sept. 30 – is reserved for remembering the victims of the residential school system in Canada.

Niagara’s chief medical officer of health says people, including family members, who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 shouldn’t be invited to Thanksgiving gatherings this year, to help reduce the risk of spreading the potentially deadly virus.

OCTOBER

Oct. 7: Inside Crossroads Public School in Virgil, 6,509 orange hands adorn one prominent wall, each hand created by the students and staff to represent Indigenous children who died attending Canada’s residential schools.

Two Sisters Resorts Corp. appeals an order by the Town of NOTL to carry out essential repair work on the Rand Estate.

The NOTL Museum is looking to expand and has asked the town for $700,000 over four years to help make its plans a reality.

Niagara-on-the-Lake got its first taste of junior hockey in about two years Friday night and the new team in town, the Niagara Predators, skated away with a 5-3 victory in their Greater Metro Jr. A Hockey League home opener in Virgil.

Oct. 14: Most of the town-ordered repairs to the historic Rand Estate have been deferred till spring, but developer Benny Marotta has been told to ensure the buildings are protected from trespassers by the original January deadline.

NOTL restaurants were practically running out of turkey by the time Monday rolled around on Thanksgiving weekend.

It is now against the law to park adjacent to or in a town park overnight in NOTL. Some councillors were concerned with RVs staying overnight near Simcoe Park.

Oct. 21: The NOTL Public Library launches a Planned Giving Program, encouraging people to remember the library when they are drawing up their wills and doing estate planning.

The site of the former American Hotel on NOTL’s waterfront could become condominiums or a hotel, says its new owner. Niagara’s Blythwood Homes purchased the 61 Melville St. property for $1.9 million from the previous owner.

Save Our Rand Estate, the NOTL group that has been fighting to protect and preserve the historic Randwood Estate in Old Town, has won a heritage award from the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario.

A man accused of manslaughter in the death of a fellow resident at a NOTL nursing home has died prior to his case being heard in court. Robert Barry Stroeh, 75, died Oct. 11 at the Niagara Long Term Care Residence on Wellington Street. He was charged after Verna Traina, 94, died in 2019.

Oct. 28: Councillors have overruled a decision by the town’s licensing committee and imposed a year-long ban on three short-term rentals that were operating illegally. “People (need to) under-stand that if they break the law, there’s a cost to that,” said Coun. Norm Arsenault.

A 39-year-old NOTL man is free on bail and facing three child pornography charges after an investigation by the Niagara police internet child exploitation unit. Weston Thomas Nesbitt was arrested Saturday and released Sunday on $5,000 bail.

There were tears of joy and thanks Saturday as the expanded Niagara Nursery School officially opened and showed off its expanded new $2 million facility.

NOVEMBER

Nov. 4: Thousands of knitted and crocheted poppies created by the NOTL Legion’s “poppy brigade” adorn the exterior of the museum to mark Remembrance Day.

Development company Solmar has dropped its challenge to the town’s plans to designate parts of the Rand Estate under the Ontario Heritage Act, telling the Conservation Review Board it will pursue “alternative remedies.”

After a year-long pilot project, the NRT OnDemand transit service has been expanded to include all of NOTL. Now, by using a mobile app – or calling a dedicated number, 289-302-2172 – you can book a minivan to take you around town or to other parts of the Niagara region.

Remembrance Day ceremonies in NOTL will be slightly streamlined this year, but the public is encouraged to come out and pay their respects on Nov. 11. Masks are mandatory.

Nov. 11: To mark Remembrance Day, The Lake Report features stories on Victoria Cross recipient Maj. Benjamin Geary and on a ceremony at the Landscape of Nations memorial at Queenston Heights celebrating Indigenous soldiers who fought and died for Canada during the War of 1812, and who continue to do so today.

And Denise Ascenzo tells the story of her father-in-law, who fought for Italy, which supported Germany during the Second World War.

Despite some revisions to the plan, residents voiced concerns Monday that the proposed apartment building at the old Parliament Oak school site is unacceptable in Old Town.

The massive Tweed Farms cannabis growing operation on Concession 5 has closed and 30 employees were permanently laid off. Tweed is owned by Canopy Growth, which has been cutting costs in response to dramatic and growing losses.

Nov. 18 front page.

Nov. 18: NOTL plays a big role in the “Little Canada” exhibit in Toronto. The founder of the miniature display fell in love NOTL, saying it reminds him of Europe.

Streetside patios across town will continue to be a staple through 2022 – and possibly forevermore. Council expanded its previous extension of the patios for another full year and will look at ideas to make them permanent.

There will be no conventional Christmas parade again this year but Santa will cruise through town as he did a year ago, visiting all NOTL communities.

The NOTL Chamber of Commerce, organizer of the Candlelight Stroll, has named Virgil teenager Devon Botbyl as this year’s recipient of money raised from candle sales.

After 22 years as the town’s animal control contractor, Ken Reid is unhappy with the way the municipality went about deciding to seek new bids on the service.

Nov. 25: After a hiatus due to COVID-19, the annual Lord Mayor’s Volunteer Awards returned, honouring 11 of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s many outstanding volunteers for their selfless charity and community work.

With the rollout of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for use in children age five to 11, Niagara’s top doctor says public health clinics from now until Christmas will be exclusively for that age group.

An environmental assessment nears finalization and representatives from the Region of Niagara say a proposed roundabout on Four Mile Creek Road in St. Davids is past the time for public consultation. And it could be under construction by 2025, an official said.

The Lake Report launches a feature series about the sinking of the Foam, one of the worst tragedies in Lake Ontario maritime history. The 1874 incident is shrouded in mystery and many fundamental questions remain impossible to answer. The seven young men from Toronto who perished just off the shore of NOTL are all buried in St. Mark’s cemetery.

DECEMBER

Dec. 2: In the first installment of an on-going in-depth series on short-term rentals, The Lake Report details how tourist areas across Canada and around the world are dealing with the phenomenon.

The idea of even considering implementing a living wage of $18.90 for municipal employees proved divisive for NOTL councillors, though a plan to look into the proposal narrowly passed.

As kids line up to get the jab, pharmacist Sean Simpson notes children under 12 years old have no protection against COVID-19 so getting them vaccinated first will better protect the entire population.

Advocacy group SORE designs a new housing plan for the Rand Estate that includes 71 homes and preserves heritage features on the historic property.

Dec. 9: More than five years after NOTL’s Ashley Simpson disappeared in British Columbia, her remains have been found and her boyfriend is facing a charge of second-degree murder.

The Town of NOTL’s vaccination policy came into effect on Dec. 1 and three staff members are now on unpaid leave for failing to comply with the regulations.

With COVID-19 cases rising again and worries about new variants, the Niagara Regional Police Service is implementing a vaccination policy for members, as Jan. 4.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in downtown NOTL as storefronts are lit up and beautifully decorated for the festive season.

Dec. 16: Three people at Crossroads Public School and one at St. Davids Public School have been infected with COVID-19, forcing the closure of two classrooms at Crossroads and one at St. Davids.

A small group of NOTL residents is hoping to have a big impact in preserving the character of Old Town. Spurred on by the plan to develop the old Parliament Oak school site, they have formed Preserve Our Special Town (POST).

Council wants to reduce the speed limit on Concession 6 Road between York and Queenston roads to 60 km/h from 80 km/h following a string of scary collisions this year. And a roundabout or traffic signal could be in the intersection’s future.

With a provincial election on the horizon, the three major political parties all have picked candidates for NOTL's riding. By law, Ontario’s provincial vote must be held on or before June 2, 2022. In the running are incumbent Wayne Gates (NDP), Bob Gale (Progressive Conservatives) and Ashley Waters (Liberal).

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