27.3 C
Niagara Falls
Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Op-ed: Point-Counterpoint: Parliament Oak development: A hotel is only option to preserve public access
An early design of a proposed hotel for 325 King St. Supplied

Why are people so quick to want to kill all public access to the Parliament Oak site?

Several impassioned letter writers have written to this publication and municipal councillors, urging the town not to approve a hotel on the site.

But it seems these people haven’t fully considered the situation.

Or maybe they just have it out for the developer, Benny Marotta.

Either way, their arguments seem to be crafted without much forethought — if any.

To really understand this situation we need to envision our future, not just react with blind passion. That’s how we screw things up.

So, with forethought, let’s ask ourselves: If Parliament Oak isn’t a hotel, what will it be?

The answer isn’t a retirement home. It’s not a school or a community hub. It’s nothing on the list of things that most idealists would suggest.

None of those things make enough money to satisfy a developer who paid $8 million for the property.

So, let’s get real, please: If it isn’t a hotel, it’s going to be homes — and not single-family detached ones.

And knowing the state of development in NOTL and Ontario, it will be jam-packed with ugly cookie-cutter townhouses that cost stupid amounts more than they’re worth.

Is that what people really want for Parliament Oak?

We should cringe at the thought of another subdivison named after the thing that was destroyed to build it.

Besides that, or the inevitable fact many of those “homes” would likely be Airbnbs anyway if the town can’t get a handle on the wild west situation with short-term rentals, it also means the property is lost forever.

That’s right, you can kiss Parliament Oak goodbye if homes are built there.

Kiss the greenspace goodbye. Kiss the historic plaque goodbye. Kiss it all goodbye.

They will be private homes with private roads that aren’t even suitable for dog walking.

If that’s progress, we don’t need any.

Now, let’s envision if it is to be a hotel like what is proposed.

The developer, despite having plenty of reasons to build as big as possible, has already said he would match almost the identical footprint of the former school building at Parliament Oak.

Sure, it’s a bit tall, but he has proposed to keep the rest of the property as publicly accessible greenspace with an outdoor feature to showcase the historic plaques — something that would be much like the Monet Gardens at the Pillar and Post.

And based on the designs, the building looks absolutely “NOTL” — it’s brick, like the Queen’s Landing and the Prince of Wales (two iconic hotels). The windows and roof look like they were almost based off of those hotels.

And there’s a history and pattern of excellence in quality based on his Two Sisters Winery and newly opened restaurant and commercial plaza.

He wants to build underground parking so it disturbs the neighbourhood as little as possible.

And he wants to build a restaurant and bar in the hotel, which would be open to the public.

What more can we ask for? Seriously.

If we, the public, want to have any access to the property, we should embrace these plans.

Instead of whining and crying and trying to stop the tide, we should instead be focused on making sure Marotta sticks to his word about the greenspace and makes it something our town (and the man himself) can be proud of. A legacy to leave behind.

And if you want to blame anyone for this property not being a school or community hub, etc., blame our past town councils for not doing everything it could to buy it from the District School Board of Niagara. And blame the DSBN for selling it to a private company.

But that ship has long sailed.

The true value of Parliament Oak is the greenspace that would be open for the public to walk and play on. That is clear to anyone who grew up here and actually uses the property.

I don’t want to kiss it goodbye to satisfy a few NIMBYs.

Do you?

Subscribe to our mailing list