Tree cutting within rights: Town, NPCA
Lack of tree bylaw means there’s little Niagara-on-the-Lake can do, says CAO
Both the town and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority say the owner of property bounded by Charlotte and John streets in Niagara-on-the-Lake has the right to remove trees from the property that also includes Randwood Estate.
“It doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the forestry bylaw,” said Dan Drennan, forestry conservation bylaw officer for the NPCA. “It doesn’t meet the definition of a woodlot.”
A group of about 50 residents gathered at the site on Tuesday in an effort to keep a contractor employed by Solmar Developments and its owner Benny Marotta from conducting work at the site. While the group managed to keep some of the heavy equipment from gaining access, workers armed with chainsaws entered the property to cut down a number of trees.
“They’re doing this before a new council comes in,” said Judith Patey, as chainsaws buzzed on the site. She and her husband, Colin, were at the site, located at 588 Charlotte St., Monday and again on Tuesday morning.
“They’re cutting everything down,” she said.
Colin, meanwhile, said it’s all perfectly legal — but that doesn’t make it right.
“(Marotta) owns the land,” he said.
The Pateys share a property line with the property.
“We just don’t know what to do,” Judith said.
Niagara-on-the-Lake chief administrative officer Holly Dowd agreed. She said she was at the site and that because the town had failed to come up with a municipal tree bylaw, its hands were tied.
“There’s not much we as a town can do,” she said. “The NPCA advised us that Mr. Marotta has all the proper permissions.”
“Had council passed a tree bylaw, there might have been able to do prevent that.”
Marotta is also the owner of the Two Sisters Vineyards, and was target of local preservationists last year when he cleared trees from a block of land next to the winery at John and Charlotte streets.
“We’re doing everything according to the bylaw,” said Marotta. “We’re not breaking any rules. We got the OK from the (Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority).”
He said that he thought the people demonstrating at the site could make better use of their time.
“I suggest some of these people spend their time volunteering somewhere,” Marotta said.
During Tuesday’s protest, demonstrators blocked four entrances to the site.
“We were on public property only,” Colin said.
Mike James, who lives a few blocks away, said residents have been monitoring the situation for months.
“All I know is Mr. Marotta is taking advantage of the lame duck status of council,” he said.
Marotta, meanwhile, said the police were called to deal with the demonstrators.
“The police told them they had to move. I didn’t press any charges,” he said, adding that could change if things escalate.
A spokesperson for Niagara Regional Police said there were no issues involving the demonstrators.
“Officers were in attendance at the protest to ensure public safety,” NRP media relations specialist Stephanie Sabourin said. “There were no concerns or issues.”
Marotta, however, also called on Lord Mayor-elect Betty Disero to become involved.
“Through you, I’m calling on the new mayor to step up and come and talk sense to these people.”
Drennan, meanwhile, said the land has been zoned residential “for a long time” and that the land does have some protected trees, but those are located closer to the Two Sisters vineyard.
Two Sisters Resort Corp. wants to build a six-storey hotel and conference centre complex with 145 rooms. A previous application was approved in 2011 for a threestorey hotel, but it was never built and the property was sold to the current developer.
Niagara Regional Police officers speak with residents attempting to block vehicles from entering a property owned by Benny Marotta.