Grif­fin House plan nixed by sala­man­der

Ni­a­gara Es­carp­ment Com­mis­sion de­nies de­vel­op­ment per­mit

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - KEVIN WERNER

The Ni­a­gara Es­carp­ment Com­mis­sion has de­nied the City of Hamil­ton’s ap­pli­ca­tion for a de­vel­op­ment per­mit for a new in­ter­pre­tive cen­tre and wash­room fa­cil­ity at the Grif­fin House be­cause of the im­pact it would have on Jef­fer­son sala­man­der habi­tat.

The de­ci­sion by the com­mis­sion has forced Hamil­ton staff to re­think how it can pro­vide needed wash­rooms, while pro­vid­ing ex­panded park­ing and in­for­ma­tion for vis­i­tors to the pop­u­lar her­itage struc­ture on Min­eral Springs Road in An­caster.

Carolyn Samko, se­nior project man­ager for her­itage fa­cil­i­ties and cap­i­tal plan­ning, said city staff has or­dered a hunter green-coloured trailer that will of­fer a uni­sex, ac­ces­si­ble wash­room that will be lo­cated on the Grif­fin House grounds.

“It’s bet­ter than the blue port-apot­ties,” said Samko. “In the long run, it is not a bad so­lu­tion.”

In the spring of 2015, David Sweet, at the time the Con­ser­va­tive MP for the for­mer rid­ing of An­caster-Dun­das-Flam­bor­ough-West­dale on be­half of the pre­vi­ous Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment, pro­vided the city with just over $205,000 for a new in­ter­pre­tive cen­tre and wash­room fa­cil­ity at the Grif­fin House Na­tional His­toric Site. The city was un­able to ac­cess the money un­til a year later, which staff stated was fine be­cause it gave them time to de­sign the new fa­cil­ity.

The city ap­plied for a de­vel­op­ment per­mit from the com­mis­sion in Oc­to­ber 2016 to build a one-storey 71.74-square-me­tre ac­ces­sory fa­cil­ity, which would in­clude a wa­ter and sewage hold­ing tank on the Grif­fin House land. The ap­pli­ca­tion also in­cluded im­prov­ing the drive­way, adding three park­ing spots and in­stalling a new power line.

But the pro­posed lo­ca­tion would have been in a reg­u­lated habi­tat of the en­dan­gered Jef­fer­son sala­man­der. The provin­cial En­vi­ron­ment Min­istry told the com­mis­sion last Fe­bru­ary any dis­rup­tion of the area would im­pact the sala­man­der, said Danielle D’Silva, the com­mis­sion’s spokesper­son.

The Jef­fer­son sala­man­der is found only along the Ni­a­gara Es­carp­ment in south­ern On­tario. It has a grey or brown back, but blue flecks may be present on its sides and limbs. It can be any­where from 12 to 20 cen­time­tres long. It lives in moist, loose soil un­der logs or in leaves.

D’Silva said a trailer lo­cated on the Grif­fin House grounds would be ex­empted from the com­mis­sion’s reg­u­la­tions.

Samko said it’s ex­pected the in­stal­la­tion of the trailer will be com­pleted by the fall.

As for the pro­posed in­ter­pre­tive cen­tre, Samko says staff will pro­vide the public with up­dated in­for­ma­tion on new signs, in­clud­ing pos­si­bly a kiosk, about the Grif­fin House and the historical im­por­tance it has to the com­mu­nity.

She said the fed­eral fund­ing will cover the costs of the new trailer and signs, as well as other needed items for the prop­erty, in­clud­ing new fenc­ing, and se­cu­rity mea­sures. The city has al­ready in­stalled a gate at the en­trance to the prop­erty to pre­vent ve­hi­cles from en­ter­ing. The Grif­fin House it­self is also in need of roof re­pairs and other up­grades.

Samko said the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has al­lowed the city to use the grant as it sees fit.

As for ex­pand­ing the on-site park­ing to ac­com­mo­date buses and tours, Samko said dis­cus­sions are con­tin­u­ing on how to do it without any dig­ging. Park­ing is still avail­able at the nearby Her­mitage.

“This will give us an op­por­tu­nity to re­ally think about what to do there,” she said.

The Grif­fin House, built in 1827, pre­serves the his­tory of early An­caster set­tle­ment and cel­e­brates Black his­tory. The house was in­hab­ited by En­er­als Grif­fin, an early African-Amer­i­can im­mi­grant to Up­per Canada, who could have ar­rived to Canada by the Un­der­ground Rail­road.

The Hamil­ton Con­ser­va­tion Au­thor­ity ac­quired the 18-hectare prop­erty in 1988 and it was opened to the public in 1995. In 2008, the Grif­fin House re­ceived Na­tional His­toric Site des­ig­na­tion.

KEVIN WERNER, METROLAND

The city will put a trailer that con­tains a uni­sex wash­room for peo­ple to use, af­ter a de­vel­op­ment per­mit was de­nied to pro­tect sala­man­ders in the area.

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