I write with respect to the letter to the editor in the Feb. 6 edition of The Lake Report from Michael Melling, one of the lawyers for Two Sisters, Solmar and Benny Marotta.
Let me first say that I doubt I am the only one who finds it peculiar in the extreme for Mr. Marotta’s lawyer to be acting as a PR mouthpiece for Mr. Marotta in a local newspaper.
After all, he hardly needs more space dedicated to his side of the story related to the Rand Estate debacle given that this newspaper has set aside prime copy space the last few weeks for posed pictures of Mr. Marotta, illustrations of the proposed new hotel and convention centre surrounded by what appears to be a mature tree canopy and, in my view, less than objective reporting on the legal saga related to the Rand Estate.
Melling, in his sententious writing style attempts to paint his developer client as a victim and the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and SORE and the many residents it speaks for as, without evidence, intransigent and the aggressors in this protracted melodrama. This is just plain ridiculous.
He neglects to point out that the offers to settle to which he refers relate to legal proceedings he himself initiated on behalf of Mr. Marotta. No one forced Mr. Marotta to appeal to the Conservation Review Board, the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal or the Superior Court.
And now it appears that Mr. Marotta is appealing the recent court decision to the Court of Appeal, rather than accepting the authority of the town to designate the Rand Estate under the Heritage Act.
The town and SORE have been forced to respond to the bully legal tactics of Mr. Melling and his client, an inconvenient fact for Mr. Melling apparently as he sees this opposition as a scandalous waste of town resources.
As to why “not one, not two, but three” offers to settle weren’t accepted by the town or SORE, it is a virtual certainty that these offers would be aggressively promoting the merits of Two Sisters, Solmar and Mr. Marotta proceeding with development of the Rand Estate including a convention centre and 170-unit subdivision (all, of course, ignoring the historical and cultural landscape of the town).
I look forward to Mr. Melling denying this. Through all of this it is important to note that the only legal proceeding initiated by the town was the prosecution and injunction application arising from the outrageous decimation of the Rand Estate landscape in November of 2018.
Melling’s client bought the Rand Estate knowing full well what the town viewed as acceptable development. They would be well aware of the very divisive two-year debate in 2009-2011 before our council narrowly approved the Romance Inn.
If I might be so bold as to suggest that if Mr. Melling’s client wants to gain the support of the town and its residents, he should bring forward a building proposal that conforms with what our official plan says is permitted, abandon plans to turn a portion of the Rand Estate into a subdivision and replant the historic landscape and trees that have been so senselessly destroyed.
The Niagara Foundation
Editor’s note: Mr. Howe’s reference to The Lake Report devoting “prime copy space” to Marotta’s revised plans for development of the Rand Estate is correct. This development and various plans for the site have been a major, contentious issue in NOTL for more than 10 years now. In the past month alone, the developer, the town and SORE have faced off in court, a judge has ruled against the developer in that case, Marotta has submitted revised development plans to the town, and in turn he has said he is appealing the court’s ruling. With respect, to not report on all the latest twists and turns in this saga would be an irresponsible disservice to our town and our readers. Others may choose to ignore this important issue, but we will not. As for his suggestion of “less than objective reporting” on the legal saga (not editorials or other opinion pieces, but fundamental news reporting), we respectfully invite Mr. Howe to point out the specific instances to which he refers.