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Niagara Falls
Saturday, July 13, 2024
Despite backlash, council approves Parliament Oak hotel
A resident accused Coun. Mavridis of having a conflict of interest. Julia Sacco

The Parliament Oak Hotel is still a go, despite hope from some residents that the outcome would change following a loud public backlash.

A formal vote during Tuesday night’s council meeting approved plans for the 129-room hotel on King Street. 

The zoning amendment, which allows developer Benny Marotta to build the hotel, was passed in a 5-4 vote, the same margin of approval as it received at planning committee on June 12.

Couns. Tim Balasiuk, Gary Burroughs, Sandra O’Connor and Nick Ruller voted against it on both occasions.

Couns. Wendy Cheropita, Maria Mavridis, Adriana Vizzari, Erwin Wiens and Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa again were in favour.

After the votes were cast, the residents who had packed the public gallery left town hall, angered. 

One resident shouted at Mavridis, alleging a conflict of interest. 

Before casting her vote, Cheropita said choosing to support the amendment was “one of the toughest decisions” she has had to make in her six years as a councillor.

She added that since the Parliament Oak issue was last discussed two weeks ago, she has faced harassment from people in the community. 

“In the last two weeks, I have been yelled at at a crowded restaurant. My words have been twisted out of context and people have come back on me questioning things I’ve said,” she said. 

Cheropita added that while she empathizes with concerns from residents, cases like the Randwood Estate have given her a precedent when deciding to move forward with Parliament Oak.

There is no defendable evidence as to why the development should not move forward, she added.

“I will not mislead residents into thinking an application can be defended if it can’t,” Cheropita said. 

Mavridis echoed those feelings, saying she does not like how she has been treated over the last week or so.

“But I guess it’s part of the job,” she said. 

She added that she will be sticking to themes she campaigned on during the 2022 municipal election.

“I campaigned that I would protect heritage by preserving it and we are protecting what is heritage on the property,” Mavridis said, referencing the preservation of the Parliament Oak plaque.

Wiens also voiced his support for the development, saying that a new hotel will allow for the expansion of the heritage district, which includes the former Parliament Oak school land.

“If we want to expand it, we’re going to have to start using institutional and commercial taxes to help us fund that. It will have to be a public-private partnership,” he said. 

“I support this, not because it was my first choice, but because of the policies that are in front of us,” Wiens continued. 

Four residents made presentations before the final vote, restating their concerns to councillors.

Marilyn Bartlett said during her presentation that she understands NOTL is a tourist destination, but hopes some sort of balance will be considered between the desires of the tourism sector and needs of residents.

“Tourism supports are significant cultural and heritage resources,” she said. 

“But it’s also a tourist destination because tourists are attracted to its character, charm and beauty,” she continued. “It’s quiet residential streetscapes. One- and two-storey homes of varying architectural styles.”

She concluded saying that the town’s official plan states commercial uses cannot intrude into residential areas and urged councillors to respect that. 

Resident John Foreman lives less than a block away from the development. 

During his presentation, he said he is opposed to the hotel plan — at least, in its current state.

“I would like to suggest changes to the proposal so that should it go forward, the harm that it causes to the neighbourhood is minimized and the value that it adds to the town is maximized,” Foreman said. 

He suggested the building be reduced from four to three storeys and that the developer donate five to 10 per cent of the 325 King St. property to form public parks on the Regent Street side of the property.

 He also urged the developer to make a “sizable donation” to a heritage project in town. 

“Council is harming the quality of life in the neighbourhood and strangely, seeking nothing in return,” Foreman said.

juliasacco@niagaranow.com

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