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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Sunday, October 2, 2022
Puzzled by attempt to destroy St. Davids heritage with roundabout
Brian Marshall
Brian Marshall (Supplied)

When I visited with Jon Kormos at his home in Queenston recently our conversation touched on several topics related to the heritage of Niagara-on-the-Lake and our mutual dismay at some of the changes in the town over the past few decades.

Perhaps it was inevitable that St. Davids, a part of town that seems to have been abandoned to developers, would surface in our discussion.

I was particularly struck by one of Mr. Kormos’s comments when he said, “I remember when the approaches to St. Davids were lined with elms whose branches reached over the road and one drove under their shade. Of course, the disease got them and they were never replaced. A shame really, since that St. Davids was a much more gracious place.”

It’s really not surprising that the loss of those leafed corridors would fundamentally alter the character of one of NOTL’s villages.

In hindsight, the decision by the council of that time not to replace them created the stage that has allowed for the type of developments we’ve seen in the last decade.

I’d like to suggest that, if that “gracious place” had survived intact, the level of citizen resistance to inappropriate development would have stopped it in its tracks. 

That said, it is certainly not too late to start managing development and, while little can be done to address the last decade, we can move to restore the beauty.

However, this brings us to another threat on the surviving character of the village.

The Region of Niagara has been strongly pressuring to construct a round-about at the junction of York and Four Mile Creek roads in the centre of St. Davids. Apparently, the region has a flawed belief that roundabouts are a low-impact panacea address to managing traffic.

In reality, on each corner of this road junction are commercial enterprises that will be, both short and long term, adversely affected by such a construct.

And, let us not forget the possible (likely) environmental impacts to the water course that runs in close proximity to the planned location.

The region suggests it can design a “small” round-about, similar I assume to the one at Niagara Stone and Concession 6 roads, to minimize these issues. I guess “small” must be a relative term, because if one imagines placing something this size in the heart of St Davids it will certainly not minimize the issues.

Further, such a “small” roundabout in St. Davids will result in exactly the same access challenges one experiences trying to get onto our existing example off Concession 6 on a weekend.

Personally, having experienced multiple lengthy wait times, I choose to drive three kilometres out of my way in order to avoid it.

Guess that’s one way of managing traffic … get the locals to take backroads.

And folks, as always when dealing with government bureaucrats, the cost doesn’t seem to matter. The simple and most workable solution is to install traffic lights on this junction at a cost of about $250,000.

On the other hand, a roundabout (with all its issues) will ding the taxpayers’ pocketbook for  more than 10 times that amount, about $4 million before land expropriation costs are included.   

All this while further eroding the heart of one of our villages. May I be so bold as to suggest that in an election year our regional representatives (councillor and lord mayor) might want to address this potential debacle?

Perhaps, if the heart of St. Davids can be preserved, the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake will take the opportunity to restore the grace of this historic village.

On another puzzling note, our town council recently asked for staff reports on three heritage properties threatened through demolition by neglect.

It’s hard to argue that this is the case when, 177 Byron has had a car-sized hole in the roof for some time and I have often written of my concerns for the David Secord House (a War of 1812 survivor) in St. Davids in this column.

Is a staff report a wake-up call to enforce our existing bylaw? If so, stay tuned next week when I’ll add to that list.