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Jan. 29, 2022 | Saturday
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Town to spend $60,000 on Rand Estate study
The Randwood Estate and surrounding lands will be subject to a $60,000 character study. (File)

The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is planning to spend $60,000 to $70,000 on a character study of the Rand Estate, something advocates say should have been done years ago.

The plan to move forward with hiring a consultant passed in a 6-2 vote, with Couns. Erwin Wiens and Norm Arsenault voting against it. Coun. Allan Bisback was absent.

Lawyer Kate Lyons spoke to council on Dec. 20 on behalf of Save Our Rand Estate (SORE) to encourage the adoption of a staff recommendation to do the character study.

In 2018, NOTL hired Bray Heritage to study all estate lots in the Old Town and Bray concluded that a character study of the Rand Estate and Brunswick Place (now known as the McArthur Estate at 210 John St. E.) should be done by the town, Lyons said.

“These two properties are some of the best examples of large lot developments that arose in Old Town in the late 19th and early 20th century,” she read from the Bray report.

Having a full view of the Rand Estate’s character is only half the battle, Lyons said.

The other half is what does "compatible development" mean for adjacent lots.

Lyons also felt the character study would be a foundational part of studies the town plans to do in its yet-to-be-approved official plan.

The new official plan “actually calls for a special study, which would have a larger mandate than this character area study,” she said.

The study is intended to establish a framework for planning development on the property and adjacent lands, according to a staff report on the matter.

The report can be found on the council agenda for Dec. 20, under CDS-21-029.

SORE laid out three objectives for the character study, which were endorsed by town staff in the report.

The first objective is to establish a planning framework that protects the character, heritage, agricultural and natural features of the area.

The second is to formulate land use and cultural heritage policies for potential development in the area.

The last is to recommend additional mechanisms to address the area’s character.

Wiens took issue with the proposal as an example of council's unnecessary spending on lawyers and consultants.

“I sarcastically said earlier today that we’re going to need to hire a consultant to manage all of our consultants, but there’s something to that,” Wiens told council.

He questioned whether any relevant or new information would be gained from spending up to $70,000 on a character study for a property the town has been litigating and creating reports about for more than three years.

“What’s going to come out of (the study) that nobody knows about?” he asked.

“If by now our staff haven’t heard it then we should be firing every one of our planners because they’ve heard it and heard it for years.”

Wiens expressed disappointment that the money to pay for the consultant would be taken from the general levy.

“We all agree it needs to get developed. Let’s get our planners, who are capable of doing the job, to get on with the job,” he said.