In the opinion of many town residents, the Rand Estate in Niagara-on-the-Lake is unique.
It is seen as an iconic property and highly valued by those who consider it fortunate that it remains.
It is also seen by many as a property that contains features of heritage and historical importance and is an integral part of what makes NOTL a desirable destination for residents and others alike.
Randwood has been owned by a developer, Solmar, for several years.
In that time there has been a proposal to council for a hotel that has since been withdrawn due to opposition and a current proposal to council for a high-density residential development.
That proposal is now destined for a probable lengthy and expensive Ontario Land Tribunal hearing in March. These actions have resulted in a reduced level of trust and credibility in this developer by many.
Both proposals have been highly controversial and contested by the Town of NOTL and SORE (a citizens action group that is widely supported).
Among the concerns are a lack of important technical information, zoning amendments to suit the developer, threats to heritage and historical assets and a disregard for the surrounding area.
Because of this, large amounts of money have been spent on legal fees by both the town, SORE and Solmar.
In December, for reasons unknown, council offered the developer access to his property by allowing him a permanent crossing of the heritage trail. However, this offer has since been withdrawn by council following a public outcry in response.
In my opinion, it is now well past the time that the developer should accept the inescapable fact and conclusion that his proposals in their present form are clearly not wanted by NOTL residents or their representatives and do not respect the surrounding neighbourhood.
If he has any regard at all for the residents of NOTL, and in particular those nearby who would be most affected, he would be prepared to take a fresh look at his proposal.
At the risk of sounding and appearing naive, and without any legal considerations, this also could be seen as a great opportunity to develop a well-thought-out and outstanding proposal that is suitable and appropriate for this iconic property – one that the residents of NOTL can support and applaud and is at the same time a credit to Solmar and its damaged image.
This is, after all, a unique property with special restrictions and is not a normal or simple location for development.