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Niagara Falls
Friday, July 12, 2024
Letter: Review official plan before considering Parliament Oak proposal
Letter to the editor. File

Dear editor:

The process for considering development applications in Niagara-on-the-Lake needs to be more transparent.

Of late, it appears, almost anything goes, regardless of the town’s official plan.

The rationale given by town planners is a plethora of the latest buzz words: provincial, regional or municipal policy guidelines; build more homes faster; Bill 185, about cutting more red tape, etc.

The application for a large hotel at 325 King St., the former Parliament Oak school site, is a good example.

My husband, Peter Howe, sent a memo to council and the planning department in April 2023 questioning the completeness of the application and whether it was appropriate to address it as an official plan amendment.

Due to the gravity of what was being proposed and based on his understanding of the Planning Act, Peter suggested that it should be part of a complete official plan review as required by the Planning Act every five to 10 years.

This question was met with silence, not even the courtesy of an acknowledgement.

As a matter of interest his analysis is attached to the public comments that form part of the current staff recommendation report.

Furthermore, the many comments and concerns voiced by residents (found in the public comment section of the same staff report) also appear to have been completely ignored.

So, was the “fix” already in last April and the application just bumped along through the process to pop out like a Jack-in-the-Box now?

This raises for us the question of how our planning department receives applications, processes them and responds to substantial concerns from the community.

Apart from regional and provincial guidelines, what criteria in addition to the town’s official plan do our planners consider?

And who is providing that guidance? Is it the acting CAO, the lord mayor, the deputy lord mayor or other advisers? Who holds the pen?

This staff recommendation reads as though it was written by the developer and appears to completely ignore all feedback from residents.

So, what is the answer here? Just capitulate to every developer’s ask or strategically pick your battles?

Rezoning scarce institutional community space to commercial in the heart of a residential district is not right.

Isn’t this worthy of investing dollars to fight? We can’t create more of this category of land for our growing town once it’s gone.

By the time you read this, the decision as to next steps will have been made.

I hope that our council “hears” the community and sends this back to the planning department, before the June 25 council meeting, with a recommendation to return it to the developer as not approved.

This official plan amendment “ask” is such an overreach that it should only be considered in the context of the next official plan review.

Judy McLeod

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