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Niagara Falls
Friday, June 14, 2024
Letter of the Week: Development rules can’t be same for every town
Letter to the editor. File

Dear editor:

Contrary to some of the comments made at recent Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake planning meetings, I don’t think that the staff and councillors are being personally or individually criticized.

I understand that the community is upset not so much by the staff’s comments but by a process that allows bad ideas and excessive and incompatible designs to proceed regardless of their merit as long as the town’s rules are followed.

Yet these rules appear to encourage inappropriate developments.

One of the important issues when studying a proposal is “does it provide the aesthetics and functionality to complement the town and can it improve the quality of life for current and future members of the community.”

If the town as we know it and love it, is destroyed by staff and councillors’ decisions, they may try to defend themselves by claiming that they followed the rules, without appreciating that what they did is much more important than how they did it.

The philosophy of some bureaucrats also may be to delay making decisions on matters for which they could be criticized and therefore their reaction might be to show that they followed the rules.

However, I believe that town staff should place a higher priority on making the right decisions for the community (which I think is the single most important small town in the country).

Defending, or rather, not criticizing large, incompatible or unsympathetic buildings on land not zoned for them on the basis that all development proposals have to be seriously considered and treated similarly, is patently wrong.

There’s no question that our town is unique and that it has to be planned differently than other communities.

But we need leadership to discourage the many opportunists who are trying to capitalize on the charm of the Old Town, which for the last 50 years was protected by individuals who dedicated themselves to ensuring that any new buildings in the town maintained the scale, density and compatibility with other buildings.

It’s called contextualism and the principle was understood by Margarita Howe, Laura Dobson, Peter Stokes, Don Chapman and many others who constantly reminded council and staff that it wouldn’t take much to destroy what we had.

They also reminded the administration that it should find all ways possible to discourage misguided developers from doing what they have done to almost every other town in the province.

The recourse of an Ontario Land Tribunal hearing is a waste of time since it appears to be administered by unsympathetic individuals who want the rules for every town in the province to be the same.

We’re not the same, so staff and councillors must discourage opportunists by any means possible from trying to destroy our uniqueness.

Wayne Murray

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