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Niagara Falls
Saturday, April 20, 2024
Letter: Developers need a vision and commitment to NOTL’s uniqueness
Letter. Supplied

Dear editor:

I read, with interest and some despair, Bonita Cawker’s May 18 letter, “NOTL is growing and that means more development.”

I believe we are facing a much bigger issue than merely NIMBY vs “development is going to happen, just get on with it.”

I also believe the group voicing concern is not a small minority of the population, certainly not in the conversations I have had with people.

I am not a member of any group on either side of the discussion but there seems to be a large, diverse cross-section of our community concerned about the course of growth in NOTL.

Regarding the Parliament Oak hotel proposal, I’m not sure a quiet residential area with narrow streets and few sidewalks is the appropriate place to drop in a 129-room hotel.

However, I think it is vital to look at the foundation or building blocks of a community before running headlong into expansion and development.

If you are building homes that target the “retired” community, one must address the fact we don’t have enough doctors to service our current population. We don’t have a hospital nor a walk-in medical clinic and we only have one small medical lab with limited services.

If you are building homes that target the “family” community, we have limited availability of schools, plus the whole doctor and medical concerns.

We have a volunteer fire department. Where is the tipping point for these brave men and women who are answering ever-increasing calls? We have a limited police service – what is the tipping point for them?

I think we need to take a step back and look at a much bigger picture.

At what point does development, either in housing communities or tourist accommodation, actually end up changing the face of NOTL so that it is no longer the community that people flocked to?

People from larger metropolises are moving here because we are not those communities, but we are in danger of becoming mini versions of them.

At what point do we kill the goose that laid the golden egg? When are we no longer recognizable as the town that made people want to come here in the first place?

Is there the chance that down the road, development turns us into a Disneyland, a façade of what we actually have now? I love visiting Disneyland, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

I don’t have the answers, but I believe there is so much more to be discussed.

There are many historic and beautiful country communities that have achieved the fine balance and successfully integrated a historically designated and protected area while allowing development outside the designated area.

Another reality of Niagara-on-the-Lake is that, at our core, we are an agricultural community. One of the main attractions of the area is the winery industry.

There are designated agricultural and greenbelt areas surrounding the town that cannot and, must not, be built upon. There are already safety issues along Lakeshore and rural roads due to increased vehicular traffic and speeding in complete disregard of the reality of slow-moving farm vehicles or cyclists.

Some people moving into housing at the edge of town don’t realize they are moving into an agricultural area.

I was most amused at one gathering where some people who had recently purchased a home here for their weekend and holiday use were complaining that the farm vehicles actually worked, in the mornings on the weekend.

They were trying to rally neighbours to present a petition to council asking that farm vehicles not be allowed to be used before noon on weekends.

Some commercial and residential developers have been sensitive to the realities of our community and have created excellent examples of how development can move ahead positively.

It takes a developer with vision to work respectfully within the framework of a community. They need to want to protect what makes that community unique and not impose their own personal view of what NOTL should become.

Syme Jago

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