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Niagara Falls
Sunday, April 14, 2024
Letter to the editor: From Benny Marotta


What is happening with your neighbourhood?

I feel for the concerns of some of the residents and I wish there was more communication between us. The problem that we are experiencing is that they have a one-track mind and have no intention of making things work unless it’s their way.

As of today, from what I understand they prefer the beautiful Rand Estate to deteriorate to the ground rather than saving it to be enjoyed by all.

This group of people who call themselves “SORE” are trying to control the town as to what happens, when it happens and how it happens.

Based on the talk of people in town, I have learned stories of people who created a lot of problems for other new investors in town.

When McDonalds came to town, they made a big fuss … as of today that same group of people line up at McDonalds to get their hamburgers.

When Vintage Inns came to town to invest millions to restore the Prince of Wales and the Pillar and Post, they wanted to throw them out too.

When a heroine of the town, Trisha Romance, wanted to change the zoning for a hotel at Rand, they fought her for years until she got fed up and sold it (but she managed to get the zoning).

When Two Sisters Properties bought it, they restricted us from meeting with the planning or design committees of the town for their proposal of the hotel. The meeting was held in public and looked more like a mob attack, where people attacked my family personally during the actual open forum.

Two Sisters recognized that within the Rand Estate most of the trees needed attention, given many years of neglect.

An arborist was retained to give their advice and prepare a tree inventory. Based on their report, a contract was awarded to the same arborist (very well known in the area, Bill Bucanan, who is a master arborist) to proceed and do what was needed to save the trees in the estate.

All this work was done with the supervision of the Conservation Authority and the Town.

SORE created a nightmare for everyone involved to the point that I called a meeting through an invitation by letter to 40 of the immediate local residents around the Rand Estate to engage and listen to their concerns and perhaps clarify things, as there was so much misinformation.

A small group of neighbours went around the neighbourhood to have a petition signed to not attend the meeting, and only six ended up attending.

David Bell, one of the founders and organizers of SORE, attended but he behaved in a rude and arrogant manner, acting like he was the owner of the Rand Estate.

Within the Rand Estate there were 52 dead ash trees that the Conservation Authority asked us to cut down for safety reasons. This was done with the Conservation Authority’s supervision.

This became another nightmare with the SORE group, where we were accused of destroying the Estate. (Before the work began, we delivered a letter to all the neighbors affected and explained the reason for the tree removal). As of today, Two Sisters has planted 18 new mature trees within the Rand Estate.

At 200 John Street and 588 Charlotte, Solmar Development sent a letter to the Town and Conservation Authority notifying them of the clearing of the lands of trees and shrubs. They both responded that it was okay to proceed with the work. During the clearing, we had Conservation Authority and Town officials conduct site visits.

The lands in question are identified within the Regional and Town Official Plans for residential use.

Solmar Development will submit in the near future, a development application for a new community based on the current permitted land use. These lands have been zoned residential well before Solmar offered to purchase and take title. These lands were intended for residential development.

At no time was the Dunnington-Grubb landscape touched. It’s fenced in and protected. All work has been done keeping a 100-foot distance from it.

As of today all business done by the companies Two Sisters Resorts and Solmar Development has applied and received consent from all the authorities from the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Region of Niagara. At no time have we undertaken any business without any approvals.

We have followed due process.

Based on the history of what has been happening, the SORE group needs to stop bullying companies and family names that are here to invest and improve the future of NOTL.

The existing businesses that we have in NOTL, including Two Sisters Vineyards, have nothing to do on a business level with the Rand Estates, 200 John Street and 588 Charlotte Street.

It is unjustified that the Marotta family name and the good name of Two Sisters Vineyards are attacked through social media, threatening phone calls and the recent Nov. 18 demonstration.

We believe that this is an organized campaign with intent to damage our family name. At this point, we have come to the conclusion that it is no longer about the trees on the Rand properties but that there is an underlying motive that is very disturbing, and these bullying tactics are usually used by people intolerant of others.

We have given our defamation lawyers the names of a few people who we believe have crossed the line. I caution people not to get carried away by emotions and to consider the impacts of their actions on others.

I remind the new lord mayor and elected councillors that to be elected by the public is a privilege and they should work closely with their professional staff recommendations and potential new investors, and not to fall in the trap of being influenced or intimidated by certain groups that were not appointed by the public to make decisions in the best interest of the town of NOTL as a whole.

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