Niagara-on-the-Lake, widely referred to as the prettiest town in Canada, is blessed with many assets as well as outstanding beauty.
Take, for example, the beautiful Niagara River and winding Parkway, the open spaces of the Commons (enjoyed by so many residents and their best friends) as well as the natural wooded areas providing home to a variety of wildlife.
We are a town culturally enriched by the Shaw Festival, the third-most important repertory theatre in North America, together with its many related activities.
And we are surrounded by many first-class, award-winning wineries and restaurants, numerous golf courses, including the oldest in North America, and blessed with important historical sites some of which date back to the war of 1812 and older.
While these uncommon assets are widely appreciated by visitors and local residents alike, this is sadly not the case with some developers who also claim to be local residents.
Some developer-owned properties have been allowed to become eyesores and a blight on the town:
a) The faded construction hoarding fronting two sites on Queen Street, in place now for several years and causing consternation among town councillors as well many local residents.
b) The residential property at Queen and Mississagua streets that has been left unfinished for several years and is a visible disgrace.
c) The iconic Randwood property on John Street opposite the Commons, (federal government land) showing run-down construction entrances and broken trees leaning on the ostensibly heritage-protected perimeter wall.
These are hardly examples of proper respect for the town, its residents and its heritage assets. Rather, they indicate an apparent disregard by some developers, which has in turn led to a negative image of them on the part of many local residents.
There can be little doubt that a bylaw needs to be created by town council, or enforced if one exists, that addresses the issue of long-term construction hoarding as well as minimum standards of property upkeep.
There should also be an obligation on owners of designated heritage properties to maintain those heritage assets in order that the owners do not allow “demolition by neglect.” The bylaw should be backed by strong penalties to encourage compliance and discourage abuse.
There is, however, encouragement in the fact that, according to a story in The Lake Report, town council is aware of this urgent need and is currently in the process of a full review.