Is it any wonder that everybody in Niagara-on-the-Lake seems to be up in arms these days?
We’ve seen questionable recommendations by planning staff, a town council operating too much in hiding behind closed doors, the wide-ranging assault by developers seemingly wanting to turn our fair village into just another suburban subdivision – and all conducted under a code of silence.
I think it is time for us all to take a deep breath and begin honestly and openly communicating with one another.
The time for casting aspersions on our lord mayor and town council is past, just as the time for council to try running the town in secrecy and without the support and input of a very talented, experienced citizenry is also past.
I applaud council for backtracking on its ill-advised offer to Solmar Development Corp. of the Charlotte Street/Upper Canada Heritage Trail access for Benny Marotta’s proposed subdivision.
I am opposed to unreasonable development on the back of the Rand Estate and certainly opposed to allowing access over our publicly owned and publicly financed heritage trail.
However, I recognize the back of the Rand Estate will likely be developed and will cost us as taxpayers (and the community group SORE) substantial money to curtail the wild avarice of the developer and ensure appropriate development is approved by the Ontario Land Tribunal.
But I think our biggest concern at this time and with the same developer is his planned hotel for the old Parliament School site.
His plan for Randwood is certainly important in the context of protecting the last remaining property of its type in Old Town and will certainly impact the beauty and historic nature of the town, albeit on the periphery of Old Town.
Mr. Marotta’s plans for Parliament Oak, in the centre of town, will no doubt completely alter the ambience and character of the heritage district.
Picture a new, modern, four-storey hotel in the midst of a residential neighbourhood and across the road from the entrance into the Commons smack in the middle of Old Town.
I can only pray the community will come together like it has in opposing this developer’s attack on Rand and our lord mayor and council will do whatever it takes to stymie this ill-advised plan.
We must pull together in the face of provincial legislation that hands too much power to the development industry.
Our council needs to instruct the planning department to withhold accepting any application as complete until it is verily complete with every “I” dotted and “t” crossed.
Once an application is complete the appropriate public meetings must be held immediately and feedback provided to the applicant with the clear message that if he or she doesn’t respond within two weeks the application will be rejected out of hand.
It is time for our planning department and our council to step up to the plate and determine quickly whether an application is of benefit to the town or not – and accept quickly those that are and just as quickly deny those that are not.
You will be surprised how much support and good advice you will get from your engaged citizens by acting forthrightly and in the town’s best interest.