A character study of the Rand Estate presented to Niagara-on-the-Lake council will determine how the town writes its development policies for the historic property.
Tim Smith of Urban Strategies Inc. described the former estate as having a “varied character,” albeit one connected by the stone wall surrounding the property.
In his presentation to council on Dec. 5, he defined the estate as “equal parts town, countryside and historic open space.”
The study, valued by chief administrator Marnie Cluckie at about $80,000, will be used to guide town policy on development in the area.
This will come in the form of amendments to the official plan, a spokesperson told The Lake Report later.
Smith made several suggestions for how to use the five distinct lots that make up the historic Rand Estate.
In a report attached to the council agenda, the consulting firm recommended that 144 and 176 John St. be used for commercial and residential purposes.
It recommended 210 John St. be used for conservation or agriculture.
The remaining two lots, 588 Charlotte St. and 200 John St., should be used mostly for homes, with some land allocated for open space, the report said.
A strip of land running through the entire estate’s southeast side is recommended for agricultural use.
The report from Urban Strategies suggested the town’s zoning policies be used to protect the natural and historical heritage of the area, maintain compatibility with the neighbourhood and accommodate a mix of housing types.
The document also suggests a “future street and pathway network” on the estate could include a publicly accessible pedestrian and cyclist visual connection to the Upper Canada Heritage Trail.
The town’s official plan zones the Rand Estate as a “special study area,” said spokesperson Marah Minor, meaning it won’t be developed until the town has completed a study, according to the town’s official plan.
The Rand Estate has been extensively researched by Solmar Development Corp. and Two Sisters Resorts Corp, which each own parts of the estate.
And the residents’ advocacy group, Save Our Rand Estate (SORE), has also conducted research on the property.
“That’s an important area of town. It’s important that we understand the character of it,” Cluckie said.
Cluckie said previous research on the Rand Estate has largely been focused on the individual lots that make up the whole estate.
The character study essentially compiles previous research into a comprehensive document, she added.
The study was requested under the former council in January 2022.
“Hopefully we can get $80,000 worth of value from it,” Coun. Erwin Wiens, who voted against the study, told The Lake Report.
Coun. Gary Burroughs, who supported the study, wasn’t sure there was enough detail in the report.
“I’m a little disappointed it wasn’t more specific,” Burroughs said.
“Planning to me, it’s such a slow process. And I just wanted to make a decision.”
Burroughs wanted to see something that could guide both councillors and developers.
“But it doesn’t end up with a guide. It just says these should be considered,” he said.
Wiens and Cluckie both said the study would have no bearing on the ongoing land dispute between Solmar, SORE and the town.
The dispute, now before the Ontario Land Tribunal, concerns the future development of lots on the back half of the estate, 588 Charlotte St. and 200 John St., respectively.
In his presentation to council, Smith suggested the town could open a third entrance through the Rand Estate wall to facilitate access for the public.
“It would be ideal to have another opening in the stone wall,” Smith said.
He said a new entrance would “not significantly affect the integrity” of the heritage structure.
Burroughs wasn’t convinced additional foot traffic in a subdivision was desirable.
“If I was in the subdivision, I wouldn’t want herds of people wandering through,” Burroughs said.