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Niagara Falls
Tuesday, February 7, 2023
Letter: Residents’ concerns ignored in tourism debate

Dear editor:

The third instalment in your series of editorials on short-term rentals is 100 per cent on point, both in the analysis of residents' concerns and proposed corrective recommendations, (“Realistic solutions to an undeniable fiasco,” The Lake Report, Sept. 30).

Unfortunately the owners, their agents, the hospitality industry in general and our town council are unconcerned and unresponsive to the wishes of the taxpayer. This council marches to its own drummer.

For example, the audacity with which Bob Jackson, the chief executive of Lais Hotel Properties, in your Sept. 2 news story (“Town passes controversial hotel tax – again,”) presumes to know exactly what is best for the residents of our community.

He lectures, threatens and attempts to intimidate us by proclaiming that NOTL will die without tourism – furthermore your $2 million home's price will fall by 50 per cent. This individual does not speak for me and, I suspect, the majority of the community.

Sadly the above parties ignore the well-published backlash, on critical issues of taxpayer importance, which are negatively impacting our town culture and preservation of our quality of life.

Both are deteriorating at an alarming rate and as a result we have become a very fractured and divided community.

Residents are frustrated and exasperated with the tone and tenor surrounding many of the key unresolved disputes. For example, the gateway project, one which the majority do not want, and in spite of the public outcry the final decision to proceed was obvious from day one.

Our council took the bait and bowed to this individual whose goal was to buy a legacy in his name. Gerald Kowalchuk will leave a legacy alright – one that divided our community even more. He clearly has no empathy for his fellow taxpayers and I challenge him to publicly refuse to have his name on any commemorative plaque at the completed project site.

This was not a community- or council-driven project, one that will enhance our quality of life. It is one where Mr. Kowalchuk said jump and council placated his demands by saying, “How high?” 

Add to the foregoing rental problems, the gateway project, the LBTQ crosswalk, the carriage protests, Tour de France cycle crowds on the weekends, and so forth, on top of our overtourism issues (such as parking) and we are now experiencing the collateral damage.

Namely, an exodus of residents from NOTL. Yes, in this hot market, people are selling and leaving town. They are not relocating within the community – as the saying goes, they are getting out of Dodge.

To Mr. Jackson and those whose self-interests come first, we are witnessing the early stages of the “Vienna Syndrome.” The residents, long term and newer arrivals, see our backward slide in process. The Heritage District is becoming the Clifton Hill of NOTL.

Overtourism, not lack of tourism, is killing NOTL as we know it.

Have our councillors become overwhelmed and lost control, retreating to addressing secondary ones of no importance, such as the gateway project?

They should refocus. Their re-election is drawing near.

Samuel Young


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