Tree cut­ting within rights: Town, NPCA

The Niagara Falls Review - - Front Page - RICHARD HUTTON Ni­a­gara-on-the-Lake Ad­vance

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).”

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 three-storey ho­tel, but it was never built and the prop­erty was sold to the cur­rent de­vel­oper.

JU­DITH PATEY SPE­CIAL TO NI­A­GARA-ON-THE-LAKE AD­VANCE

Ni­a­gara Re­gional Po­lice of­fi­cers speak with res­i­dents at­tempt­ing to block ve­hi­cles from en­ter­ing a prop­erty owned by Benny Marotta.

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