Ni­a­gara Es­carp­ment’s new pol­icy ‘ridicu­lous’ for farm­ers, winer­ies

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - OPINION - AL­LAN BENNER STAN­DARD STAFF aben­ner@post­media.com

Re­gional coun­cil­lors are ask­ing the prov­ince to re­con­sider its “ridicu­lous” new 2017 Ni­a­gara Es­carp­ment Plan that ad­versely af­fects one-third of Ni­a­gara’s winer­ies.

“I think it’s im­por­tant for us to un­der­stand how truly gran­u­lar and ridicu­lous this is, and I use that word very broadly be­cause the only peo­ple who are suf­fer­ing here are peo­ple who are try­ing to op­er­ate their farms in full pro­duc­tion,” said Lin­coln Mayor San­dra Eas­ton at Wed­nes­day’s plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment ser­vices com­mit­tee meet­ing.

While pre­sent­ing a report on the new pro­vin­cial poli­cies, Ni­a­gara plan­ner Erik Acs said about 29 of Ni­a­gara’s 96 winer­ies fall un­der the prov­ince’s 2017 Ni­a­gara Es­carp­ment Plan, that in­cludes “more re­stric­tive con­trols … lacks clar­ity” and “causes im­ple­men­ta­tion prob­lems for winer­ies at the lo­cal and re­gional level.”

“It also places cer­tain land own­ers at dis­ad­van­tages,” Acs said.

“In short, these re­stric­tions are counter-pro­duc­tive to grow­ing a suc­cess­ful agri-food sec­tor.”

Pel­ham Coun. Brian Baty, Ni­a­gara’s sole rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the Ni­a­gara Es­carp­ment Com­mis­sion, said he’s aware of poli­cies that “seemed to be more pos­i­tive,” ad­ding the con­cerns “come as a bit of a sur­prise.”

“There may be an anom­aly,” he said, ad­ding the com­mis­sion has been deal­ing with a large num­ber of va­can­cies re­cently lead­ing to months when the com­mis­sion did not meet.

“There were months when we didn’t even have a chair,” Baty said, won­der­ing if the pol­icy was not dealt with by the com­mis­sion due to missed meet­ings.

He said the va­can­cies have “re­ally crip­pled the func­tion­ing of the or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

Baty sug­gested re­fer­ring the pre­sen­ta­tion to the next meet­ing of the Ni­a­gara Es­carp­ment Com­mis­sion, be­cause “mem­bers, most of whom are new, need to be in­formed.”

St. Catharines Coun. Bruce Timms said the Re­gion needs to en­dorse ef­forts to change the pro­vin­cial pol­icy “sooner rather than later.”

“Is there any ac­tion we can take ap­peal­ing the act it­self through cab­i­net at this state?” Timms asked.

“I be­lieve the op­tion to ap­peal has passed,” Acs told him.

Acs, how­ever, said the pol­icy could still be amended.

“There are ways of clar­i­fy­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion chal­lenges that are high­lighted here. We need to start that dis­cus­sion with them,” he said.

Ni­a­gara’s di­rec­tor of plan­ning, Rino Mostacci said amend­ments to the plan can be made through a num­ber of dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios.

Al­though cur­rently the onus is on winer­ies to ini­ti­ate amend­ments to the pol­icy, Mostacci said it is a “very oner­ous process for an op­er­a­tor.”

“It’s not their spe­cial­iza­tion. It’s not what they do, and it takes a long time,” he said. “We would rather have the es­carp­ment com­mis­sion ini­ti­ate their own plan amend­ments.”

Com­mit­tee mem­bers also dis­cussed Baty’s con­cerns about va­can­cies on the Ni­a­gara Es­carp­ment Com­mis­sion left un­filled by the prov­ince’ s pub­lic ap­point­ment sec­re­tariat.

“We had a to­tal of eight peo­ple leave who were long term,” Baty said. “It’s those va­can­cies that have not been filled to the point that we have not had quo­rum at sev­eral meet­ings.”

The Re­gion pre­vi­ously ap­proved a mo­tion in July, call­ing on the prov­ince to fill the va­can­cies on the com­mis­sion.

Baty

Eas­ton

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