-4.7 C
Niagara Falls
Thursday, March 30, 2023
Editorial: Council and the Rand Estate clear-cutting
The Lake Report's weekly editorial. File

When Niagara-on-the-Lake’s new municipal council was elected last fall, incoming members knew they’d be facing some difficult, sometimes unpopular decisions.

This week, councillors were faced with one of the first of those tough decisions – whether to continue with an appeal of a justice of the peace’s ruling that stayed charges laid by the town against the owner of the Rand Estate over clear-cutting of trees and destruction of heritage attributes.

At the lower court, the lowest of Canada’s judicial system, a justice of the peace – not a full-fledged judge – ruled it has taken far longer than the maximum 18 months for the case to get to trial.

So, the charges were stayed. That happened in October.

Because we were in the midst of an election campaign, it fell to chief administrator Marnie Cluckie to decide the town would indeed appeal the ruling.

That case was to be heard before a judge in St. Catharines on Feb. 22, but after receiving advice from town legal counsel during a closed session last Friday, council opted to fold its tent and cancel the appeal.

That is probably the path of least resistance – though councillors will no doubt take a lot of heat from those in town who are still angry over what happened on the Rand Estate in 2018. Those actions led to the charges.

However, given how long the town actively pursued this case, the seriousness of what was done on the property, the amount of legal fees already paid compared to what might be incurred by going before Justice Donald Wolfe in St. Catharines … we have to question council’s decision.

We know our new lord mayor and some councillors have said they want to engender a less-combative “us versus them” approach on many issues, but this seems to be more of a “what have you got to lose?” situation.

Perhaps our council members know more about what’s at stake than we do.

However, whether you care about trees, the Rand Estate, heritage attributes – or not – it does potentially set a bad precedent when a municipality effectively throws in the towel in a fight that was also about principles: That anyone, deep-pocketed developer or small-town operator, should be held to account for their actions.

We don’t know if some on council felt differently upon reflection over the weekend – which led to a second special council meeting, on Valentine’s Day – and a revote on approving the actions that were passed in Friday’s closed meeting.

No one wants to see council waffling on such major issues, but it’s too bad the revote failed.

We are disappointed and disagree with council’s decision to abandon the court case.

We hope it doesn’t lead to developers now thinking they can push this council around and force the town to accede to their whims.

That would be a travesty.

Subscribe to our mailing list