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Saturday, April 20, 2024
Randwood Part 3: Resident Voices

For the final piece of the Randwood story, The Lake report talked to 18 residents completely at random in front of the Old Town and Virgil post offices.

Over the course of this story, the paper has talked to many residents to find out what they think about the proposed hotel and what should be the future of the Randwood Estate.

The paper discovered residents of the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake have varied opinions.

While most residents agree there should be an effort made to make the hotel look and feel like it belongs in Old Town, some are opposed to any form of development on the property, and others support the hotel, believing it will benefit the town and will look nice when it's all said and done.

There are also some people that support the development for a number of reasons, including creating new jobs and the history of other Two Sisters projects.

The most common answer we got from people is they don't really know much about it and aren't too bothered by the whole ordeal.

While many residents are non-vocal because they aren’t invested on a personal level, the paper found many don't really mind a hotel at Randwood, for one reason or another — especially those living outside of Old Town.

Many said they are generally more concerned about other issues, such as securing a medical centre, safety for cyclists and a growing need for senior care facilities in the town with such a high population of aging citizens.

One consistency is that most people talked to believe if a hotel is built, it should be sensitive to the established historical feel of the town, though some said they do believe the hotel will fit in with the town and be much like Two Sisters Winery.

Those who live in the direct area of the development oppose it for a number of reasons already outlined. These interviews show the wide range of opinions people have towards the proposed development.

It remains to be seen if the hotel will be approved for six storeys or not. The Lake Report will continue to follow this story in separate articles.

As of now, the next steps to the process are finding out when designation will happen and if Two Sisters Corp. (proposing the hotel) will take the proposal to a local appeal tribunal.

Two Sisters owner Benny Marotta seems likely to do so and has said in the past he feels he has “no other choice.”

“I think it’s an absolute disgrace. It's a prime location in town. It should not be taken over by a big commercial operation. I don't think it'll help. We've got enough hotels in town here … I think it's going to change the whole character of that area up there, that's all … I like it up there the way it is, overlooking the Commons, with the wall. I don't see any reason for converting it into something that's going to change the whole character of the place.” – Bill Bradford, Old Town

“Where I live it doesn’t really affect me, other than just one more hotel that we don't need … I think it could be better suited as an up-scale retirement facility. There's a general agreement around that people want to move on up when they're finished with their homes and can't cope. Where are we going to go? The only place currently is Royal Henley in St. Catharines. There are so many people, especially in my age bracket. And when we moved here we were in our fifties. We're no longer in our fifties. ” – Dawn Thompson, Old Town

“I support it, I support the family behind it because they are providing jobs and opportunities for people. I think there's definitely room for negotiating the aesthetic of it, but in terms of their right to build a commercial business, they're well within their rights. It was zoned commercial long before that family came along. And I have confidence that they will handle it well and with the same kind of finesse and class they did with Two Sisters. I'm very confident about that.” – Sue B, Old Town

“To be honest, I don't really know what's happening much … I don't really think we need another hotel. So to me it's a waste, but that's pretty much it. Because I don't live there, it doesn't bother me too much, but if I did it would bother me. There's already enough. The Pillar and Post is there, and how much more do you need? They could do something totally different with that humongous property — something totally better than that other hotel.” – Julia Chishow, Virgil

“I don’t really have an opinion about Randwood, but I wish the Town and folks would focus on getting our new medical centre up and running.” – Sally W, Old Town

“I’d like to see a more sensitive development than has been proposed. Six storeys is too big. I'm pleased the town is moving forward with designation.” – Christine E, Old Town

“I don't like what Mr. Marotta is doing at Randwood, and I hope we can find some way to make it less obtrusive. He's probably going to get something, but I don't want a six-storey hotel. I think it would be out of place in the town. It would be a first and that's not a good thing.” – Sheila Laird, Old Town

“I just moved here. I just know what I've read in the newspaper. One of the reasons we moved down here was because it's so quaint, so to hear there's another hotel possibly coming, we have some concerns because we don't know as newcomers how high it's going to be, how much traffic it's going to bring, how it's going to affect the environment. So we have a lot to learn before we can really have an informed opinion.” – Debbie P., Old Town

“I'm not a good one on that. I find the people down there get their nose up in the air and they're all fighting. It wouldn't matter if it was perfect, they'd still be fighting about something … It seems to me they just try create things … It's the only place in the world that make McDonald's back down with that little sign … I live in Virgil. I don't go down there. I used to go down to the Rooster and then it folded … So I just ignore it. The closest I get is to the drug store.” – Patrick Collins, Virgil]

“It does bother me, because I think they had approval for a smaller scale and they want to go bigger and not keep the heritage, which is important. I think it's just going to change the landscape (of NOTL) if we keep bringing in bigger and bigger hotels into town. I have a bed and breakfast — I don't see it as competition, I'm not against it in that way, I just think it changes the feel of the whole area … the grander scale of things doesn't fit into what NOTL has been about.” – Amanda Terry, Old Town

Vlad Wojcik, Virgil –  “Randwood development? … I have not been following this issue closely.” Reporter: “You know the old property in NOTL with the stone walls around it, in Old Town?” Wojcik: “Yes. Close to Charlotte Street?” Reporter: “Yeah. They want to build a six-storey hotel there.” “No no no no, please don't do that.  It should not be more than one storey above the ground. So, all the rest should be bulldozed or artillery should be called.” “Let Niagara-on-the-Lake keep its own character … All Americans are coming here to spend their money, please do not disturb the process.”

“I don’t want something huge built in NOTL. It's bad enough with everything that's happening already — with everyone moving into town, everything sky-rocketing and us locals getting — well, basically you can't live here. My children won't be able to live in the town they grew up in, because it's unaffordable. It's sad for the next generation.” – Jane McClure, Old Town

“I think it should just stay the way it is … I think six storeys is too high for there … maybe a smaller scale, something like maybe three floors. I think it should look like an old Victorian look, just to keep with the town, just so it stays the same. Cause if you go with that new contemporary or whatever, it's not going to fit.” – Leanna Eymann, Virgil

“I think it's a monster of a building that's going into a very beautiful place. I don't think it belongs there. That's probably the short of it I'd say … I'd like to see it stay as it is, but I don't have the money invested in it like other people might have, so it's hard for me to say that, but it just seems to me that a six storey hotel in that area would just bastardize the whole Rand Estate.” – Harry Penner, Virgil

“The fellow owns the property, I can understand him wanting to develop it, but I really hope that the town takes care to make sure he protects the property, the heritage rights, the trees, the buildings, and I just hope that he's sensitive to the town of Niagara-on-the Lake.” – Debra, Virgil

“I don't care one way or the other. I've been here nine years … and I notice a lot of time when developments go up, people from Old Town or the tree-huggers get together and they want to beat to death everything that is progressive around here … even over behind my place there's a new subdivision going in there … You just move ahead. It's progress … I think it's a lot of the old timers of Old Town with old money maybe … I can see both ends of the stick but I have nothing against the building whatsoever.” – Bob Gervis, Virgil

Eric Janeiro, Virgil – “I've read a little bit about it in the paper, and I still don't understand what the big beef is. This place is going to grow regardless of what people want or don't want — I don't even know what that is, or what people are complaining about.” Reporter: They want to build a six storey hotel. Janeiro: “What's the problem with that?”

“I have no interest in Randwood. It doesn’t affect me. Whenever I see stuff about it, I ignore it.” – Kim S, Old Town


The Lake Report would like to make the following correction with regards to Randwood Part 2. It was erroneously reported that an approval for a 2011 proposal for a hotel on the Randwood property was approved, allowing Two Sisters owner Benny Marotta to develop the Randwood property if he were to build the Romance Inn hotel. In fact, Marotta is not able to develop the property as the 2011 proposal was never officially approved and recommendations were put on hold pending approval from the Town.

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