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Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Letter: In debating development, NOTL’s unique character needs to be protected

Dear editor:

I think that some of the comments made by Samuel Young in his letter to the editor about development (“Rather than fight developers, work with them,” Oct. 21) merit further debate from a different perspective, and with a direct focus on Niagara-on-the-Lake.

In the first place, the horse bolted from the barn a long time ago and is no longer relevant. 

Consequently, to my knowledge very few people are against the principle of change through development. Population growth is seen by most as inevitable.

In this respect NOTL is no different than the other communities referred to – except that it is.

Old Town is a unique historical location that has important heritage assets, including the iconic Rand Estate.

These assets are an essential part of the character of the town and its neighbourhoods and must be preserved at all costs.

As a result, the elected council faces the additional  burden of protecting them in the face of growth through rapid and, in some cases, destructive development.

This sometimes results in a necessary defence against costly lawsuits and appeals initiated by certain developers.

The constant legal confrontation has resulted in the appeal of lawsuits brought about by developers but deemed to be without merit by the Ontario Superior Court.

On the one hand we have those developers (not all, but some) who are interested only in maximum profit and nothing else, certainly not heritage assets or the surrounding community.

On the other, we have elected councillors who must consider these assets as well as community opinion when having to make decisions on appropriate development. This is not an effort to stop progress or impede population growth as suggested, nor do I consider this to be an exercise in futility or a case of NIMBYism (name calling), as is often claimed. 

Although well-intended, I think that the idea of a mediated compromise between the town and developers is naive in this case and particularly so given the issue of heritage preservation in NOTL and at least one developer who has shown no genuine interest in preserving heritage assets that interfere with his development plans.

Few would argue that growth through development is necessary and inevitable.

However, the impact and effect of this development on important heritage assets and the surrounding neighbourhoods cannot be overlooked and must be seen as appropriate even if this leads to legal confrontation.

Derek Collins