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Niagara Falls
Monday, July 15, 2024
SORE still looking for assurance MHC will review site plan

David Bell, a Charlotte Street resident and core member of SORE (Save Our Randwook Estate), questions why he was denied a request to appear before council Monday regarding the role of the municipal heritage committee and its input at the approval stage for development of a six-storey hotel on the Randwood property.

Bell was requesting council to ensure the MHC would have ample opportunity to review the site plan for Two Sisters' hotel and conference centre proposal, and report to council on its findings, as stated in a 2011 Official Plan amendment.

The gist of his delegation last week was to explain a 2011 Official Plan and zoning amendment to allow a hotel, as well as the status of a holding zone that would delay approval of the amendment until after the site plan approval stage.

To clear up confusion surrounding that holding zone status, and how it affects issues such as the height and location of buildings and whether there would be a role of the MHC at the site plan approval stage, planning director Criag Larmour was asked to prepare an explanatory report, which he did, dated July 12.

After Bell saw the report, he asked, before the deadline for a delegation application, to speak to council about the information in the report – and the information that wasn't included.

He felt it didn't adequately address his concerns, specifically the role of the MHC. He wants council to give the heritage advisory committee a final look at the site plan before it's approved by council — which, as he said to councillors last week, was clearly intended by the council of 2011. He is hoping council will commit to acknowledging and respecting the 2011 agreements.

But Bell's delegation application was denied by Town clerk Peter Todd, based on a decision that it contained no new “significant” information from Bell's delegation the week before.

“Rather strange that my delegation was refused because it did not contain any new information,” said Bell, “considering that I was responding to an information report that did not exist until July 12.”

Larmour's report sets out the reasoning behind a holding zone – typically, he said, zoning amendments are approved first in the planning process, and site plan approval later. The work that goes into a site plan can be costly, and a developer is not usually expected to proceed with that stage and pay for the extensive work that goes into it until he knows the necessary zoning amendments have been approved and the project can move ahead. But in the case of a large development, when there is concern from the public, as was the case in 2011, the hold can stall approval of the Official Plan and zoning amendments until after the site plan is reviewed and approved.

The use of the holding zone, said the report, “provides assurances that the zoning approval is not a fait accompli” and final zoning approval will not take place until council passes a bylaw to remove the hold, which can only occur after the site plan has been approved.

The other purpose of Larmour's July 12 report, as directed in a motion by Coun. Betty Disero last week, was to clarify whether council could delegate authority to the Municipal Heritage Committee to provide recommendations to approve or not approve the site plan.

Larmour's report said the MHC, as an advisory committee to council, “does not hold the legal authority to approve the required site plan.”

Bell, in the delegation he had hoped to present Monday, said he had conceded council's authority to approve the site plan last week, but asked council to obey the “spirit” of the 2011 report that the MHC be given the opportunity to provide recommendations to council.

Larmour's report explains that since the Randwood properties are on the municipal register of heritage properties and council has asked for the properties to be given heritage designation, “the MHC is expected to be fully involved in advising council in the continued review of the proposed development of Randwood Estate.”

Should council wish to expand the role of the MHC to include providing recommendations on the approval of site plans, it could do so in an amendment to a bylaw that sets out the responsibilities of the MHC, Larmour said.

In the delegation that he didn't get to make, Bell planned to ask for more information from the planning department on details that need to be addressed before the release of the holding zone —  such as protection of the heritage resources and cultural landscape of Randwood, submission of detailed building designs and elevations, landscape and lighting plans, the identification of fire routes, reconstruction of one of the John Street entrances for fire truck access, a report on the state of the bridge to ensure it's capable of supporting fire trucks, and ensuring no negative impact on abutting properties – it's important council understand that is the level of detail that was agreed upon in 2011, said Bell.

He noted from Larmour's advice to council Monday that a revised proposal for the Randwood Estate hotel and conference facility, submitted early this week, will go back to both the MHC and the urban design committee for review and comment, which will necessitate another public meeting. In sending his delegation and comments to councillors this week, he suggested that given the attendance at the last public meeting concerning Randwood, this one be held at the community centre as well. 


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