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Friday, April 19, 2024
Saga of illegally paved conservation land finally resolved
A car drives through environmental conservation lands that were paved over by Vrancor Inc. in 2018. The road connects Glendale Avenue to Counsell Street. FILE

No penalty for hotel developer but new trees and shrubs must be planted

The town has granted a developer permission to pave over conservation land — more than five years after the work was completed.

In 2018, the developer Vrancor Group, responsible for two neighbouring hotels in Glendale — Holiday Inn Express and Staybridge Suites — built a private roadway connecting Glendale Avenue to Counsell Street and a parking lot on conservation land adjacent to the QEW, at 524 York Rd.

Now, years later, Vrancor and Niagara-on-the-Lake have agreed to some mitigating steps to restore the once-protected land by planting some trees and shrubs.

Council approved a bylaw Feb. 27 that rezones the land, now a parking lot and roadway, for commercial uses.

The lot and roadway were built without the town’s approval in 2018, according to a staff report discussed at a meeting on Feb. 6.

“I’m just concerned that we’re saying, ‘That was then and now we’re just going to approve it all,’ ” Coun. Gary Burroughs told his peers.

He asked if the town could levy fines on the landowners for paving the land ahead of approval.

Director of planning Kirsten McCauley said no, as it has been over five years since the land was paved.

“The woodlands were there a lot longer than that,” Burroughs said.

There was a “bit of a miscommunication” over the roadway approvals when Vrancor dug up the land, McCauley said.

Later, Coun. Sandra O’Connor told The Lake Report she wasn’t sure how the roadway’s construction went ahead without the town’s consent but said the developer had not done its “due diligence” to get it right in the first place.

The developer completed all the required environmental research before it started digging, McCauley said.

On the town’s website, an environmental impact study dated November 2016 is attached to the developer’s application for planning amendments with three addendums.

Myler Ecological Consulting, an environmental consulting firm retained by the developer, reported in one addendum in April 2021 that the construction of the driveway and parking lot was “insufficient to threaten the health and integrity of the woodland or its ecological functions.”

The zoning changes approved by council bring the unapproved driveway into compliance with town zoning bylaws.

The developer will be required to plant two shrubs or trees for every tree or shrub that was removed during the construction period, the staff report says.

O’Connor, citing an appendix of agency comments brought to the meeting, said regional staff felt the mitigation measures were not sufficient given the encroachment of the driveway.

This much has been resolved, McCauley said.

Some of the plantings will take place in a nearby ravine, west of the hotels and north of York Road, according to the staff report.

The report also says the developer will have to submit an annual ecological report and allow the town to visit the site for inspections.

O’Connor said it was “very frustrating” it had taken so long to resolve the problem.

evanloree@niagaranow.com

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