POSTS & UPDATES

Municipal Heritage Committee meeting February 8, 2022

At a meeting of the Municipal Heritage Committee last Tuesday substantial time was devoted to the issue of a previously requested design charrette.  A 35 page power point presentation was submitted by members of the Urban Design Committee (UDC). This is to outline areas of concern for the developer to respond to regarding changes to the existing application.

The presentation was a substantial undertaking by members of UDC and went into great detail analyzing the developer’s proposal. They looked at the design versus neighbourhood context, the building mass, scale and character, the Official Plan requirements, comments made, a detailed analysis of the immediately surrounding streetscapes, neighbourhood sensitivity and recommendations.

The design charrette, which is voluntary, will be attended by members of both committees and the developer to resolve these issues. This presentation will go to council and the planning department for comments before being submitted to the developer for his response.

POST's position is that the Official Plan does not support the apartment building form and that low density single family housing is appropriate for this site. 

A sample slide from the presentation  requesting "considerations" 

A Plan By POST That Complies With The Towns Official Plan

Part of POST's letter to council, shown below, January 24, 2022

The Plan below was developed to illustrate a residential development that complies with the Towns Official Plan and addresses the concerns of both the Municipal Heritage Committee & Urban Design Committee.

3-Oak grove park REV.png
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1-developers vision.png

Post's letter To Council, January 24, 2022

TO:           The Lord Mayor and Members of Council

           

CC:           Colleen Hutt, Acting Town Clerk

                 Marnie Cluckie, Chief Administrative Officer

                 Mark Iamarino, Senior Planner

                 Tara Druzina, Staff

 

DATE:      January 24, 2022

FROM:     Preserve Our Special Town - POST

 

RE:            Minutes of the Municipal Heritage Committee - January 18, 2022  

 

 

We are writing on behalf of POST - Preserve Our Special Town, a group of concerned residents regarding the Parliament Oak School Proposed Development by Liberty Sites. We understand that the Municipal Heritage Committee (MHC) is an advisory committee to Council on heritage matters including matters of cultural heritage conservation and Official Plan policies pertaining to cultural heritage.  We wish to speak to the Minutes of the MHC Meeting on January 18, 2022.

 

We are concerned with the 4th item in which the height of “the building” is discussed.  The building is an apartment building.   This discussion of the apartment building assumes that council will agree to the developer’s request for an Official Plan Amendment (OPA) to medium density residential, a Zoning Bylaw Amendment (ZBA) to RM1 Residential Multiple and that the developer’s application is a done deal.  MHC has undertaken discussions of this apartment building in great detail, rather than the requirements of the OP which do not support this building form or density.  Specifically, the Land Use Compatibility provisions of the OP require:

 

6A.4.6 - Intensification and/or redevelopment should be consistent with:

 

c) The existing and/or planned densities of the surrounding neighbourhood; and,

d) The existing and/or planned height and massing of buildings within the    surrounding neighbourhood.

           

The surrounding neighbourhood density is 3.47 units per acre.

 

We are concerned that if Council adopts these MHC minutes, it will be construed as conceding the developer’s OPA and ZBA applications;  i.e. that medium density residential is okay for this site.

 

We do not think that medium density residential and Residential Multiple is okay for this site.  The attached schematic drawings, as shown above, demonstrate a proposal that is compliant with the OP.  This would probably satisfy most neighbourhood concerns.  It is juxtaposed with elevations from the developer’s proposal. (See illustration above).

 

The developer was aware of the OP and existing zoning restrictions when he purchased the property. The motive for this proposed development is profit without regard for the long term effects on the town.

 

Submitted by the Team at POST

Alan Gordon, Connie Tintinalli, Marilyn Bartlet

At the January 24, 2022 Council meeting, item #4 from the Municipal Heritage Committees' minutes was not adopted.

Committee Of The Whole Jan. 10, Planning Meeting Minutes

& comments made by participants

There was strong opposition to the proposed developments made at the COTW January 10 meeting. Please see the comments made by residents starting on page 4

Click on the heading above to see more.

Some Recent Comments from our Petition

"I lived for 30 years across from the Parliament Oak School, my 2 children attended, it was a community hub for civic inclusion, and central to the intimacy of the Town's core. A loss when it closed. A disaster for development. Further investigation needed for optimal use."

Click on the heading above to see more.

 

Submission To The Town of N.O.T.L.

To:     The Lord Mayor and Members of Council, Town of Niagara on the Lake
          Marnie Cluckie, Chief Administrative Officer
          Mark Iamarino, Senior Planner
          Colleen Hutt, Acting Town Clerk

Beyond the Numbers
Recognizing that Provincial Policy Statement intensification strategy is important to conserve resources
and contain urban sprawl, surely the intent is to provide homes for those who need them, not those
who simply want them.

Click on the heading above to see more.

Density Map of the Surrounding Area      Click here to see map

The 2017 Official Plan States:

4.6 Land Use Compatibility Policies

Compatibility and Appropriate Infrastructure

Intensification and/or redevelopment should be consistent with:

 a) The existing and/or planned built form and heritage of the property and surrounding               neighbourhood;

b) The existing and/or planned natural heritage areas of the site and within the surrounding         neighbourhood;

c) The existing and/or planned densities of the surrounding neighbourhood; and,

d) The existing and/or planned height and massing of buildings within the surrounding                 neighbourhood.

The average density of all blocks surrounding the site is - 3.47 units per acre.

 

The proposed net density by the developer is 22 units per acer and the apartment building alone is 27 units per acre and the houses are 6.6 units per acre.

Source of the above is the developer's revised Planning Justification Report, December 2021

Parliament Oak Proposal Defies Common Sense

The proposed revised development for 325 King Street of 9 houses and a 71 unit condominium apartment building in the centre of the “Old Town” is not an appropriate use of this site.

 

Click on the heading above to see more.

Submission To The Lord Mayor

To:      The Lord Mayor

           Members of Council, Town of Niagara on the Lake

           Marnie Cluckie, Chief Administrative Officer

   Mark Iamarino, Senior Planner

           Colleen Hutt, Acting Town Clerk

 

Re:      Parliament Oaks proposed development - File Nos. OPA-04-2021 and ZBA-08-2021 - 325 King                   Street, Niagara on the Lake.                  

 

These are formal submissions strongly objecting to the proposed development of the Parliament Oak School site at 325 King Street, Niagara on the Lake. 

Click on the heading above to see more.

The Great Wall Of King Street

Reader Submission, “The Local”, NOTL

Dear editor:

When the public meeting for the proposed redevelopment of the former Parliament Oak school site was delayed and I heard there would be revisions to the original proposal, I was so hopeful that the proponents had perhaps finally read the official plan and the zoning bylaw and/or spent some time in our town trying to discover what makes it special.

Click on the heading above to see more.

Comments From Our Visitors

To Councillors

I wish to register my earnest opposition to the Parliament Oak School Property development proposed by Liberty Sites Ltd. and to support the several reasons clearly set forth in the Preserve Our Special Town website [www.postofnotl.com]. This development is a cynical and scarcely-concealed attempt by a developer to maximize its profit at the expense of riding roughshod over all considerations of aesthetic suitability, appeal or architectural compatibility with a long-established town neighbourhood possessing a unique historical and cultural significance.

Nothing so far put forth by the developer, town planners and other interested bureaucrats gives any hint  at all of a concern for the appalling effects and implications of these building proposals which are in clear overreach of existing planning by-laws.  As for our elected town councillors, given their apparent inclination to act like the three wise monkeys, and to hide their lights under a bushel, awaiting further planning decisions, we are left with only an anxious hope that they might actually be alive to issues represented by this unwelcome, unpleasing and potentially calamitous development in the heart of the town.

Cui bono?  All attempts thus far to rationalize and advance the building of this project in its present form reflect no more, in my opinion,  than the unbridled greed of the developer and the possible indifference of a Council with its eye firmly fixed, first and foremost, on the town’s tax base.

The essence of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s appeal, for its residents and for its visitors, indeed of its economic subsistence, derives largely from its antique spirit, over two centuries in the making, from its colonial history, quaint streets, spacious lots, historical buildings and old homes and gardens.

If we are to preserve the essential character and charm of this town, and maintain its attraction for all those having a desire to visit and enjoy it, we must pay close attention to taste and aesthetics and be prepared to aggressively reject residential building proposals such as this one which only serve to rapidly erode those characteristics. Once lost, they will not come back.

Richard H. Baker, NOTL

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As a resident for over 40 years I am appalled at the precedent this will set for the destruction of neighbourhoods. We face a mammoth condo building proposal in the Dock Area and if the Parliament Oak monstrosity does ahead, we too are doomed.

Jim Reynolds, NOTL

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Hello Councillor Burroughs,
Having met you and understanding your extensive background in Niagara on the Lake I know you have been through many similar exercises at the Regional level and in the Town over the years

For the life of me I am baffled how the proposal for the development of the Parliament Oak School property even gets to first base. It breaks so many rules of the Niagara on the Lake Official Plan relating to density and height. If the rules are to be broken, What are the benefits  for us, the Taxpayers?
More tax revenue is not an acceptable answer. Keeping our mil rate flat is not nearly enough benefit to justify such an outrageous development.

Lets start with the planning department sending the proposal back to the developer and ask for a proposal that fits 100% per cent inside the existing rules? Why have the Official Plan in the first place if it is to be ignored. Why are the planning staff supporting the proposals if they break so many rules?  Why are the planning staff supporting proposals not supported by Council. Why does Council have to fight staff? Why does Council have to hire outside Council to fight the Ontario Land Tribunal?
I think these questions should be answered in a transparent way in an open forum.

Any new development in the Old Town should look like the Old Town of Niagara on the Lake and conform to the Niagara on the Lake Official Plan to the letter. It is a Crown Jewel of a town in Ontario and a National Treasure in Canada with a rich history that you know as much about  as anyone. Its not Virgil. Its not Glendale. Its not Unionville. Its a special place. The fact that its grouped with the other neighbourhoods in a  municipality is an unfortunate accident of administrative history.

Do you think the cradle of American civilization in Colonial Williamsburg Virginia would allow such a development? Does anyone think Colonial Williamsburg needs Intensification? Niagara on the Lake should be more like Williamsburg and less like Unionville now.

I realize I am asking these question in a naive way. I realize the Province plays a big role with the Ontario Land Tribunal looming over any local decisions. I, like 99.9 % of the population am not interested in becoming experts on the various Provincial and Municipal Planning Acts, and Agencies Boards and Commissions rules and regulations and our Town Official Plan. The technicalities of the planning and approval process seem to override the “Can’t see the Forest for the trees” problem.

Old Town Niagara on the Lake does not need Intensification. It needs to be protected from intensification. It needs a wall built around it!

I was under the false impression that our new Council and New Official Plan was protecting the Town from this type of outrageous development and egregious breach of the Official Plan regulations.

We moved from Unionville Ontario 5 years ago, a beautiful town utterly destroyed by bad planning and Intensification. We don't want to see the same thing happen here.

But unanswered questions only lead to speculation about who is profiting from this outrageous proposal other than the Developers.  The immediate speculation turns to politicians and senior bureaucrats as in so many other municipalities that we read about in the papers.

Who can help me understand some of this stuff?

Do you think old Town needs “ Intensification”?

Sincerely, Larry, NOTL

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We are NOTL residents adamantly opposed to the destruction of the historic character of our town with the proposed “Toronto stay condo alley” as seen on page 4 of The Lake Report December 16th.

Erin NOTL

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The density of this development should be the same as the surrounding streets.

Dan, NOTL

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Dear Elected Councillors

We are writing to you today to express our frustrations and concerns with the current Parliament Oak proposal by Liberty Sites (3) Ltd. For all the reasons mentioned during the two previous on-line calls (the endless contradictions with the Official Plan) , this proposal goes against everything that Niagara on the Lake represents for residents and visitors. The character and history of this magnificent town has been hundreds of years in the making. This proposal will significantly and permanently damage it. You can be sure that if this moves forward in a way that resembles anything close to what Liberty Sites has proposed, it will set a very dangerous precedent and you can be sure this will be the first of many. The town character as we know it will never be the same. The fact that this is even getting past the Planning Department to Council is quite disturbing given the number of contradictions with the Official Plan. It tells me that large developers get special treatment. How could this get past the Planning department ? Someone is clearly not doing their job, or perhaps the Planning Department feels that the Official Plan is not applicable to Developers who seek to make their millions and then walk away at the expense of this Historic Town and its residents.

There are many nearby residents (including us) that have spent a great deal of money ensuring our homes are maintained and meet the original character and architectural design from when they were built. We’ve applied for permits, broken no rules and followed due process because we believe it is the right thing to do. When everyone follows the rules , the character of Old Town is maintained. To accept this proposal or anything close to it, is a slap to all residents who have invested to maintain the original character and architecture their homes.

If something like this was proposed in Historic Cape Cod next to century homes you can be sure that it would never be approved. Please do the right thing for this town, its residents, visitors and all future generations. Please say no to this proposal. Say yes instead to a low density 6 homes per acre proposal that meets the Official Plan, that compliments Old Town, that does not permanently damage the character of our beautiful, historic town.

 

Warm Regards Paul O’Connor & Melissa Rocchi

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I understand that in previous years we had a by-law in NOTL which required new builds to conform to the area. Why on earth was this removed? It would have at least been another hurdle to try and stop this current monstrosity. Now massive houses are permitted to entirely cover a lot next to small garden homes. Additions and extra structures fill garden space. This by-law should certainly be re-instated although so much advantage of this grievous mistake has already been taken to the detriment of many streets.

 

Why did we bother with an official plan which the planning dept. and councillors totally ignore? I really do not understand why some proposals are allowed to be submitted for actual consideration.

 

Ann Handels, NOTL

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Don't kill the golden goose. People visit NOTL for its character and charm. Why visit if it looks like everywhere else.

Lindsay, NOTL

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To NOTL Council:

 

I am sure you have received a number of objections to the proposed development of the Parliament Oak School site, so I will keep my note brief.

 

1.  I attended the initial public meeting that was held online a few months ago and see that the proposal has changed only superficially since then. The core objections raised at that time have not been adequately addressed.

 

2.  The proposed development runs counter to the Official Plan in terms of both proposed density and architectural character. The developers, of course, know this and are likely pushing to see how much they can get away with before the OP is approved by the Region. Council should not bow to this cynical strategy.

 

3.  It seems obvious that the development plan as it currently stands will dilute the character of Old Town (the foundation of NOTL’s economic health and quality of life), particularly given that it will take place in the heart of the town itself.

 

4. The impact on the existing infrastructure and traffic issues will be significant and, as always in situations like this, will have unforeseen negative consequences that can’t be ameliorated after the fact.

 

5. The precedent set will severely weaken council’s position when faced with similar proposals that will surely come on the heels of this one. This will lead to a fairly swift deterioration of the town’s unique character. Take a look at Collingwood/Blue Mountain as an example of how the character of an area can be undermined by largely unchecked development. Much of the charm and draw has eroded quite rapidly and the water supply and other infrastructure have been put under unsustainable pressure. Blue Mountain has a unique natural asset that can continue to provide economic support (the ski hills and Wasaga). Old Town is largely dependent on its more vulnerable man made and heritage assets.

 

6.  I am not opposed to development, just to inappropriate development. NOTL is a gem and there are many good developers out there who wouldn’t hesitate to work with the Town to execute profitable projects that respect the Town’s character. In my view, Council should not be concerned about taking a hard stand to defend the principles set out in the Official Plan. It seems to me that the Town’s inherent strengths puts Council and residents in a position of strength not weakness vis-a-vis developers. 

 

Okay, this note is longer than I originally suggested. Sorry about that. I hope I have adequately conveyed my concerns. I know these situations can be tough for Council, but I do believe citizens have an obligation to make their concerns known.

 

All the best to all of you over the holidays.

 

Michael Ennamorato, NOTL

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As long time residents of NOTL for 15 years we are  opposed to any type of High Density development in the Heritage District
As an Architect ( retired) working in Toronto I was involved with Heritage Toronto for the city of TO and worked for the preservation of Historical Houses….
I am appalled reading about a huge building proposal of over 70 units
Nobody is talking about the logistics of infrastructure necessary to support this kind of project
Why are the houses and apartments registered as R2 and not R1?
We have many questions and very few answers from the Town Committee.

Lili & Eddy, NOTL

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My husband and I live near the Parliament Oak site and our rear yard/deck look directly at the site of the proposed development on the Parliament Oak school property. To say we are devastated by the potential destruction of our environment, on so many levels, is an understatement. There are no words to describe our horror. Our lives, as we have known them for 17 years, will end. The beautiful views, the birds and other wildlife that grace our yard, the tranquility of the ecosystem that exists around us and One Mile Creek, the peace and quiet, a casual walk down the road, the loss of the 'clippity clop' of the horse and carriages coming down Regent St on a beautiful evening.....all gone! All to be replaced by traffic, noise, cars, lights, garbage trucks, service vehicles and a monstrous apartment building blocking our view....and for what? We have, for many years now, been dismayed and concerned about the over development of NOTL and the negative impact it is, and will continue to have, on the beauty and attractiveness of this town, to both its residents and tourists. This proposal takes all of those concerns to a whole new level.
Thank you for taking on this momentous task of attempting to bring a halt to this destruction of our town. You have our full support and will do whatever we can to assist. Please add us to your mailing list.


Penny & Graham

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Hello,, folks!

I am a homeowner on Gage Street and very concerned about the Parliament Oak plan.

I just emailed a letter to the council, mayor as well as individual letters to all councillor, including the regional councillor.

I had a letter printed in the Local on November 24th, and attended the last virtual council meeting. We really need a “ live” meeting so concerned residents can be seen and heard. In the virtual meeting they had 2 guest speakers and ‘ ran out of time’ to hear more concerns.

A ‘live’ meeting would show the true sentiment of the residents, and have more ‘presence’ as a voice.

D.W., NOTL

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To NOTL Council

As a resident on Regent street, I believe I have a duty to make my concerns known about the development named in the subject line above.

Parliament Oak school is not an historic site. The Oak tree, the location and, perhaps, the stone tablets should be preserved, but the school could be removed.

The density proposed by the developer is unacceptable.

If this, clearly, 'financially motivated' precedent is set within the original old town grid, then NOTL WILL become another GTA. Each new developer will add a storey or three to their drawings and...('that doesn't change things much')... we have a high-rise community. If the original school building is to be reused, I propose a mixed use of community centre and seniors rental housing made from the classrooms. This could provide housing for our residents finding it difficult to afford continued living in the old town. It would also provide a multi-generational, respectful environment to the families living in the one and two-storey homes around it.

These homes should be clapboard and brick faced with porches and verandas. The lots could be small if parking was created underground, but each home should have a green space, with access to the shared park over the parking lot.

A unique space requires a unique vision and 'reused GTA house designs' should not be a cost saving measure here. There are many beautiful and historic house designs within a short walk of the site.

Our town council cannot let us down again, by their naïveté or lack of foresight to effectively debase the original old town grid.

Please consider your options, carefully.

Thank you

Margo Foreman, NOTL

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The design would look great next to the St.Catharines hospital but it is completely out of character with the look that would blend well with the architecture established in the area of the Royal Oak School in Niagara on the Lake. My plea to the architects and designers of the building is PLEASE DO NOT DESTROY THE QUAINT LOOK OF NOTL THAT ATTRACTED US SO MUCH TO MOVE HERE 30 YEARS AGO!

Edgar Norriss, NOTL

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To NOTL Councilors and Planning

On Monday November 8 2021 I was present for my first virtual council meeting (Committee of the Whole Planning) which was held to provide information to council members and the public regarding the Official Plan amendment and zoning bylaw amendment request for the property located at 325 King Street in NOTL.

 

My name is Jude Pepe. My husband Gerald and I reside at 75 Centre Street NOTL and also own properties at 372 Regent Street, 70 Gage Street and 330 Victoria Street. All 4 properties are within one block of the Parliament Oak School property. I have lived in the old town of NOTL for 48 years and my husband for 71. He attended Parliament Oak School as did our three children. His area of study at the University of Western Ontario concentrated on urban and recreational planning, specifically tourism in NOTL and how inappropriate development would negatively impact the appeal and charm old town offers both tourist and resident. I tell you this to share a bit of our history of both the old town and the property at 325 King Street.

I chose not to register to speak at Monday’s meeting but felt moved, after listening to the Urban Planning meeting of October 26, 2021 and to the speakers of November 8, 2021, to file this complaint against the proposed development and to express the concerns of both myself and my husband.

 

Every 4 years we cast our ballots for a town council we hope will be sympathetic to our concerns regarding development in our town. This council has spent countless hours updating our Official Plan so that it is not the developer who run our town’s development, it is our Official Plan. In preparation for Monday’s meeting, I listened to the Urban Planning meeting of October 26 where a revised version of plans for development at 325 King Street were presented and my first thoughts were why is this even being considered? How is this appropriate development? Why is the Urban Planning committee thanking the ‘proponent’ for submitting a revision that is clearly not in any way respectful to our Official Plan 2017 or the proposed Official Plan 2019? Why does our council spend an enormous amount of time creating an Official Plan when our town staff accepts a proposal so outside its parameters? Can they not just say ‘come back with a submission that more closely fits our Official Plan?’ During Monday’s council meeting there were many well informed and articulate speakers who shared our very concerns over this proposed development. They spoke of heritage preservation, intensification already satisfied until 2052, the details of Provincial Plans, Niagara Region OP, NOTL OP 2017 and the proposed NOTL OP 2019 that this proposal in no way conforms to, our towns climate change initiatives thwarted by excessive addition of roads and paving, monetary payments in lieu of retaining green space, increased traffic and insufficient parking for 71 apartments and 9 homes IN ONE SQUARE BLOCK , the loss of the current existing parking on all four streets and apartments that may or may not have regulations regarding short term rentals and cluttered balconies. All of this at the entrance to our historic town centre, destroying our beautiful and unique town with this incredibly inappropriate development and affecting our quality of life. Perhaps this type of development is better suited to the old Garden City Race Track in the Glendale area. The speakers were all speaking from both their intellect and their heart, their passion felt. Perhaps our next public meeting could be arranged so that people have the choice to participate in person and feel this energy.

 

We do hope that we have town staff in Mark Iamarino in the planning department and Craig Larmour in Community and Development who will make the recommendation to council to not amend the OP, so recently prepared by this council in 2019 and to not support the zoning amendment. We also hope we have a council that will say ‘NO’ to this illegal and inappropriate development as they did to the proposed Mary Street apartments.

 

Sincerely,

Gerald and Jude Pepe

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Dear NOTL Council members,

 

I am writing to voice objection to the proposed development of the Parliament Oak school property. 

 

I have had a connection to Niagara-on-the-Lake since 1994, including 12 years as a resident of Old Town, from 2000 to 2012. During that time I have witnessed many changes, some good, some not so good. I have nothing against development as such, and have benefited financially as the direct result of development in Old Town.

 

The proposed Parliament Oak development will do egregious and irreversible harm to the town. This development will push the Old Town over the tipping point beyond which it no longer has the distinctive character that makes it of value to residents and attractive to visitors. The POST website makes clear in sufficient detail exactly how the proposal contravenes the Town's Official Plan. The Town has an Official Plan for good reasons, and every time the plan is ignored it is further on its way to becoming a worthless and meaningless document while the social fabric of the town is further frayed. As Council members, you are custodians of this fabric, without which the town ceases to be a residential community and becomes nothing more than an investment opportunity--one best not lived in.

 

For anyone who might regularly have to look at this development, if only in passing, the aesthetic considerations should need no spelling out; there are pictures provided on the POST website.

 

Given the combined needs for housing and the preservation of greenbelt, there are places where intensification of development and increased densities would be in the public interest. This is not one of them. Would any member of Council wish to live near this development?  With anything close to the proposed 71 apartments, many of which will inevitably become short-term rentals owned by investors with no connection to the town, the traffic from such services as Skip the Dishes and Uber Eats will be enough to make for very busy residential streets, with all of the attendant safety considerations and diminished quality of life. I used to walk along King St. from Queen to John and never once hear the honk of a car horn. Now when I do so there are times when I could close my eyes and imagine that I'm in Manhattan. With this kind of development, it won't be long now before Niagara-on-the-Lake is a good place to be from.

 

Were I to have the opportunity to again reside in Old Town, I would have to ask myself whether or not it would really be worth the increasingly long drive, once there is no longer any there there. Should Council decide to approve this proposed development in anything like its current form, it should follow up by issuing a statement advising Old Town homeowners to take advantage of current market conditions while they still can, and by installing an honest new sign at Mississauga and Queen reading, "Welcome to Niagara-on-the-Lake: A Nice Place to Invest (but you wouldn't want to live here)." 

 

Once a Town Council becomes known as an easy mark, it has a reputation that is hard to shake. It is one thing to have the Town staff in the pocket of the development industry, quite another to have the elected representatives there as well.  If any on council are inclined to approve this proposal, they would do well to ask themselves, as residents of the town and as council members, "Why am I even here?"

 

Sincerely,

 

Andrew McPherson

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Comments made at public meeting, Jan 10, 2022

The issues we face here tonight are not simply those of zoning or building heights or density or architectural harmony. What we are confronting here is the very future of our town and its priceless heritage. The building proposed for this historic site is not subtle; it is not quietly insidious; it is not a gentle invasion of a neighbourhood. On the contrary, It shouts and proclaims its presence with a brutality and a ruthlessness not seen before in the history of this historic place. The developers bandy about words like “heritage” and “streetscape” and “neighbourhood” but these are all hollow buzz words with no connection to the reality of what they are truly proposing: the wholesale destruction of the geographic centre of the Old Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.  When the District School Board of Niagara wantonly refused to sell this property to our town and favoured a developer out of concern that a school might somehow reappear there, we all feared the worst. 

 

The worst is what we have before us now.  It as is if an alien species has descended to infect our town with a malignancy so profound that we can only recoil in horror. and dismay. There will be no cure for this disease should we allow it to take root. And like all malignant tumours, it will metastasize and spread. The word “precedent” sounds innocuous enough, but it is profoundly powerful. Once a tradition is shattered or a rule is massaged or bent, the deviation becomes the new normal. How do we deny the next developer permission to wreck another neighbourhood? I live in the Dock Area across from the remains of the old American / George III Hotel. There is already a proposal in the works for a gigantic condo block on this site which would dwarf the surrounding homes and destroy our community. I am sure that the developers and their planners are listening in tonight, taking notes, biding their time and watching just how this first assault on our town plays out. Any neighbourhood could be next.

 

 

208 years ago, on December 10, 1813, Niagara-on-the-Lake was burned to the ground by retreating American forces, encouraged and abetted by turncoat Canadian Joseph Willcocks and his henchmen. Every house was torched and what remained was a smoking ruin of foundations and chimneys. Our town was rebuilt and many of those new homes still stand today as a testimony to the resilience and determination  of our ancestors. These historic houses are one of the main reasons we have millions of visitors every year to this area. We now stand and face another invader but one who pretends that his actions are benign and will enhance our precious town. Nothing could be further from the truth. If this development is approved it will stand for a century as a monument to folly, short-sightedness and greed, which will leave visitors and residents shaking their heads in bewilderment and disgust. 

 

 

We are on the brink of an existential moment which goes far beyond land use planning. I predict that the Old Town will live or die by the outcome of this one proposal. We must ask ourselves what kind of a town we want to have for the next hundred years. If it includes this development, then we already have our answer. 

 

 

My wife, Patricia Hartman, a former teacher at Parliament Oak School, sees this proposal as the antithesis to what this town really needs: housing that will attract young families. A town with no children is fated to die of old age. This development might attract Air BnB investors or retirees but there would be no place here for families, The old school lies at the heart of the town with green space to benefit all. If we have learned nothing else from the pandemic, we know how vital green space, open skies and nature are to our mental and emotional health. 

 

This will have to be a political decision and should it be made in the developer’s favour, a plaque can be erected to proclaim the epitaph of Niagara-on-the-Lake with the date of its demise in the first quarter of the 21st century. Here is an opportunity during these dark pandemic days to give those who love Niagara-on-the-Lake a reason to hope for a brighter future. Our Town Council may have been powerless in the face of the DSBN’s adamant refusal to sell us back our own property, which it had acquired at no cost, but our elected officials are not helpless now. The scope of this disgraceful proposal is such a flagrant abuse of our bylaws  and planning principles and requires so many concessions and variances that the developer does not have a leg to stand on. It is vital that our planning staff, our committees and our politicians not provide that leg. For the sake of future generations they have no choice but to say no.

Jim Reynolds and Pat Hartman

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