Now that the holidays are over it is time to carefully consider the actions of our town staff and council in the past month.
At the conclusion of an in camera council meeting on Friday, Dec. 15 a statement was issued concerning the town’s position before the Ontario Land Tribunal on Solmar’s Planning Act and Ontario Heritage Act appeals – which delineated site constraints including access.
Council clearly stated proper road access is feasible through 144 and 176 John St. and would yield an optimal level of intensification, but Solmar is unwilling to secure the historical John Street access from its related corporation.
The town then dropped the bombshell that council is willing to grant an easement over a portion of its lands at Charlotte Street to allow an appropriate road access, if Solmar requests it.
Frankly, standing on Charlotte looking at the Upper Canada Heritage Trail and 588 Charlotte St. laneway with the intervening heritage-designated wall, it is difficult to envision an acceptable road without knocking down at least 200 feet or more of the wall and turning a section of the calming walk along the old railway right-of-way into a sidewalk beside a subdivision access road.
What our councillors were thinking is simply beyond me.
To go on and suggest “public consultation” (on design only) after already making the offer to cede public heritage lands to a private developer smacks of our provincial government’s Greenbelt giveaway and its issues with transparency and listening to its own advisory committees.
What kind of consultation can we expect when at the Dec. 20 meeting of the heritage trail, committee vice-chair Tony Chisholm complained that “We have no information on this whatsoever” when raising the question and was shut down immediately by NOTL parks manager Kevin Turcotte, who cited ongoing litigation?
I would like to understand exactly what “litigation” he is referring to with respect to the heritage trail committee and why that should be used as a shield to prevent the public from weighing in on council’s ridiculous idea.
One would think the heritage trail committee, which has for years been the driving force behind protecting and enhancing this important feature of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s cultural and historic heritage would be the first group to be consulted by staff and council when making such a momentous decision affecting the trail.
And to learn the committee has been kept in the dark while actively raising funds for the improvement of the trail is simply reprehensible. There is a better alternative access, as council’s own resolution clearly states.
I remember the hue and cry when developer Benny Marotta’s original drawings for the aborted Rand Hotel project showed a crossing of the trail from the Promenade to the Rand Estate, which was much less egregious than the present proposition.
I’m sure the Lake Report will do a fair and thorough investigation.