Niagara Regional Council Barely Kills Controversial Offer To Purchase Lakeshore Property

By Doug Draper

An offer for Niagara’s regional government to purchase more than 20 acres of shoreline property in the local municipality of Wainfleet was narrowly defeated by the Region’s council this February 9.

Grimsby regional councillor Debbie Zimmerman - Saying 'no' to offer was best decision for Region's taxpayers

Niagara’s regional chair Gary Burroughs cast the vote that killed the offer when a recorded vote from councillors in the chambers, following a closed door meeting  on the property matter that ran more than an hour, on the matter, in an 11-to-11 tie.

The property in question stretches along the beaches of Lake Erie and is part of the former Easter Seals campground which was purchased for about $3.2 million in 2005 by a company called Lakewood Beach Properties. According to sources Niagara At Large talked to in the days leading up to the February 9 vote, the company was offering to sell half of the property to the region for something in the range of $7 million – a price the sources said had at least some regional councillors wondering if it was a good deal for taxpayers. The other half is being used by Lakewood Beach Properties  to build a multi-store condominium overlooking the lake.

The offer was tabled a week before the February 9 meeting during a closed session of the Region’s Corporate Services Committee and was given the green light by enough councillors present during that session to go to the full council for the vote. Sources said some of the councillors in favour of moving the offer forward, including St. Catharines regional councillors Andy Petrowski and Tim Rigby, received donations from parties with links to Lakewood Beach Properties.

 Both Petrowski and Rigby, in separate interviews with Niagara At Large, said campaign donations had nothing to do with their positions on the property offer.

 “I appreciate the support (from campaign donors) but they know I can’t be bought,” said Rigby shortly after casting one of the 11 votes this February 9 that would have kept the possibility of purchasing the Lakewood Beach land alive. Rigby said his vote was a show of support for Wainfleet Mayor April Jeffs and for the late Wainfleet mayor Gord Harry, both of whom expressed interest in purchasing all or some of the old Easter Seals property for the public to have access to the lakeshore.

St. Catharines regional councillor Tim Rigby - says his 'yes' vote was, in part, for the late Gord Harry

 Petrowski’s response to any comment that campaign donations from parties with ties to Lakewood Beach influenced his interest in purchasing the property was “absolutely not, it did not affect my position at all.”

The first-term regional councillor for St. Catharines went on to say that he paid for about 90 per cent of the roughly $25,000 he spent on his election campaign out of his own pockets and would rather pay the rest of it on his own than  have donantions influence his positions on issues.

As for his siding with the councillors interested in possibly purchasing the property, Petrowski said he and others were interested in seeing if the Region could still get a better deal from the company. “I will always have my radar up for a potential land purchase that can serve our region for generations, as long as it is affordable.”

 Petrowski called the stretch of beach area the Lakewood Beach company was offering to sell to the Region and “jewel.” Working to acquire it would have been in keeping with the regional government’s “lakefront enhancement strategy” and overall efforts to preserve shoreline areas for public access, he said.

The “no” vote cast by 11 regional councillors and Burroughs at the council meeting, argued Petrowski, “shut the door on us ever knowing if we could get (the land) for a more affordable price.”

St. Catharines regional councillor Andy Petrowski - No voters have 'shut door' on lakeshore 'jewel'

Lakewood Beach Properties directors Janice Raseta and Ralph Terrio are also the directors of Copper Cliff Properties Inc. and Port Dalhousie Management Corp. Copper Ciff Properties and Port Dalhousie Management Corp. donated $500 each to Petrowski’s 2010 municipal election campaign. Rigby received $750 from Copper Cliff and $750 from York Bancroft Corp., another firm with Janice Raseta and Ralph Terrio as its directors.

Grimsby regional councillor Debbie Zimmerman and one of the councillors who voted “no” to an offer she felt was not in the best interest of taxpayers told reporters following the vote “that the motion that got passed (that killed the offer) was the right motion.”

 The (owner) has kept the best portion,”  Zimmerman told Niagara At Large later of the half of the property Lakewood Beach is planning to build a multi-story condominium along the beach on, “and is now trying to sell the regional taxpayers a pig on a poke,” she added of the other half.

Zimmerman said what bothers her most is that a few councillors met with the owners on their own about selling the land and did not do with the knowledge or approval of council. The offer then showed up at a committee meeting of council with some members “trying to push it through” – a move that turned her and other councillors off and “may have cost the township of Wainfleet and the citizens of Niagara the chance to purchase this property in the appropriate way.”

Perhaps, concluded Zimmerman, another opportunity will come to purchase the property for the public in a way that includes involvement from start to finish of the full council.

The councillors who took the “no” side in a recorded vote where Zimmerman, Burroughs, St. Catharines regional councillor Brian Heit, St. Catharines Mayor Brian McMullan, Welland regional councillor George Marshall, Pelham regional councillor Brian Baty, Thorold Mayor Ted Luciani, Thorold regional councillor Henry D’Angela, Lincoln regional councillor Bill Hodgson, Pelham Mayor Bill Augustyn, Grimsby Mayor Bob Bentley and Niagara-on-the-Lake regional councillor David Lepp.

The 11 councillors who voted to move forward with the offer were Port Colborne regional councillor David Barrick, St. Catharines regional councillor Alan Caslin, Niagara Falls regional councillor Bart Maves, St. Catharines regional councillor Tim Rigby, Niagara Falls regional councillor Selina Volpati, St. Catharines regional councillor Andy Petrowski, Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati, Niagara Falls regional councillor Barbara Greenwood, Wainfleet Mayor April Jeff, West Linclon Mayor Doug Joyner and Fort Erie Mayor Doug Martin.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Lord Mayor Dave Eke, Port Colborne Mayor Vance Badawey, Welland Mayor Barry Sharpe, St. Catharines regional councillors Ronna Katzman and Bruce Times and Lincoln regional council Mark Bylsma were absent for the vote.

You can find out about who gave how much in donations to candidates who ran for municipal office in 2010 by going online to municipality where the candidate ran for a local council or regional seat and searching the government or town or city hall section of the municipality’s website for election expenditures.

(Niagara At Large invites you to share your views on this post in the comment boxes below. Please remember that NAL does not post anonymous comments or comments by people using pseudonyms. Only comments attached to real names work here.)

 

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25 responses to “Niagara Regional Council Barely Kills Controversial Offer To Purchase Lakeshore Property

  1. Regional Councillor Mayor McMullan received $3000,00 in contributions from developers and yet he did not vote for this deal.
    So much for selling your soul for a buck!

  2. One has to wonder what the hell is going on here!

  3. Hmmm….

    1. Voting Rules:
    Under “Roberts Rules of Order”, the Chair is allowed to cast his/her vote as they wish but, in case of a tie, must vote to defeat a motion, because the motion didn’t have enough strength on its own to go forward.

    Not every Parliament/Council/Club/etc. uses Roberts Rules, and may have different Standing Orders (eg. the Canadian and Ontario Parliaments use different rules).

    However, assuming that Regional Niagara uses Roberts Rules, is it correct to say that Chair Burroughs “cast the deciding vote”, when he merely voted as do all Councillors? When the votes were tallied and found to be tied, he declared the motion to have failed, as he is required to do. Every Councillor in the room can be declared to have “cast the deciding vote”.

    In fact, the 6 absent Councillors might even be declared to have caused the tie by absenting themselves and Not casting a vote either way.

    2. Municipal Conflict of Interest Act:

    http://www.search.e-laws.gov.on.ca/en/isysquery/0e6e15fd-eb8e-4a00-8a07-5501f5ca1403/11/doc/?search=browseStatutes&context=#hit1

    Is there a suggestion in this blog story, that Councillors Rigby and Petrowski violated this Act? Did either of them have
    “any pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, in any matter and is present at a meeting of the council or local board at which the matter is the subject of consideration”?
    Does the acceptance of election donations constitute a “pecuniary interest, direct or indirect”? Should someone petition a judge to have them lose their seats?
    If there is No conflict, why was the issue raised in this blog story? Why can’t we take them at their word that they were researching value for the future of Niagara citizens?

    PS. It’s good to see ‘big city’ Niagara Northers taking an interest in rural Niagara South, for the good of us all.

  4. Cllr Petrowski refers to the lakeshore lands on Lake Erie as a “jewel”. His pals in the PDVC referred to Port Dalhousie as a “gem” when first they came on the scene. Ever since they have worked to destroy the charm of this delightful community. The developers appreciated his aggressive support. What’s this about? Public interest or private profits?
    ‘Moonstruck’

  5. Why would the region have an interest in owing this property? Some of the regional councillors talk up a good talk about how we all have to tighten our belts, and now this?

    • For the past 2-3 years, there’s been a huge debate in Fort Erie about the Town buying beachfront land in Crystal Beach and then … developping it, rather than preserving it as Public Beach for future generations.

      Doesn’t this sound similar? We ALL have an interest in preserving Public Beaches, not just tiny Wainfleet. Or should we let only “corporations and wealthy investors” buy & profit? They don’t make beaches anymore – which can only increase in price, if ever we (citizens of Niagara) decide to get us some.

      The method to initiate the process may or may not have been flawed, but exploring a purchase was still a good idea.

  6. I’m pleased they voted no.

  7. Angela, you are absolutely right that we have to tighten our belts when it comes to stupid spending and wasteful expenditures. But owning unique properties PROVIDED they are AFFORDABLE is not spending, those are investments. Properties like lakefront, river habitats, and forests present an opportunity to purchase an appreciating asset that can be enjoyed be generation after generation. The Region is a major funder of the Conservation Authority and this agency does not have the capital to engage in such extraordinary pursuits although they most certainly have the expertise and capacity to manage them beyond that.

    On the other hand the Region is way too preoccupied in the political present spending money on depreciating things like buildings of suspicious value and in too many cases not even looking after those. And unfortunately the bankrupt province doesn’t care about our local geography so we have an obligation to look beyond the immediate curb. No one said buy at any price, but we must take a longer term view with some of our dollars if we are serious about preserving and conserving some of our natural landscapes for Niagarans and others to enjoy today and tomorrow.

    It’s all about priorities. Does the long term matter or not? The answer definitely carries a different price tag. One thing we can both agree on. You usually don’t get a second chance when it comes to property.

    President Theodore Roosevelt, who has been dubbed the “Conservationist President”, acknowledged the balance of establishing parkland and competing interests including alternative use of those funds. I think he summarized the solution quite well when he said, “With self-discipline most anything is possible.” I would add visionary thinking doesn’t hurt either.

    • Mr. Coakley,

      Thank you for your letter.

      I am sorry you misread the article(s) or perhaps you do not have all the information?

      I don’t recall agreeing or having an opportunity to buy anything? Sorry for your confusion.

      Sincerely, Andy

      From: Michael Danny Coakley [mailto:irisheyes_1957@msn.com]
      Sent: Saturday, February 11, 2012 03:48 PM
      To: Petrowski, Andrew; Rigby, Tim; Timms, Bruce; Caslin, Alan; McMullan, Brian; Katzman, Ronna; Heit, Brian; Burroughs, Gary; standard ; mbergsma@stcatharines.ca ; drappers@vaxxine.com ; mcconnell@610cktb.astral.com ; tdenis@610cktb.astral.com ; S ; newsroom@610cktb.com
      Subject: Putting Niagara Behind The 8 Ball

      To: Michael Coakley; MY CELLirisheyes1957@rogers.blackberry.net

      Subject: Putting Niagara Behind The 8 Ball

      Councillors Rigby and Petrowski,

      I have just finished reading articles published in the St. Catharines Standard and Niagara at Large regarding the Region purchasing property in Wainfleet from Lakewood Beach Properties at a cost of over 7 million dollars. To say I was shocked by what I read would be an understatement.

      In the Niagara at Large article Mr. Draper states “the company was offering to sell half of the property to the region for something in the range of 7 million” as well as “The other half is being used by Lakewood Beach Properties to build a multi-store condominium overlooking the lake.” Mr. Draper also goes on to state that the entire property was purchased in 2005 for 3.2 million dollars. In the St. Catharines Standard article it is reported “Sources put the value of the property at about 7.5 million.”

      The conclusion I draw from these articles is that the both of you voted in favor of the Region purchasing half of the property at over double the price paid in 2005. I find this expenditure of taxpayers money completely uncalled for and unwarranted given the state of our local economy as well as the many challenges Niagara residents are facing.
      In closing I hope you will be able to explain how you could support spending over twice the amount of money on half of the property?

      Sincerely,
      Mike Coakley
      St. Catharines

      Mr. Coakley,

      Thank you for your letter.

      I am sorry you misread the article(s) or perhaps you do not have all the information?

      I don’t recall agreeing or having an opportunity to buy anything? Sorry for your confusion.

      Sincerely, Andy

      DEAR ANDY – YOU just told me , I am confused as you did NOT have a chance to purchase property??? Who am I speaking with? Help Please?
      From: Michael Danny Coakley [mailto:irisheyes_1957@msn.com]
      Sent: Saturday, February 11, 2012 03:48 PM
      To: Petrowski, Andrew; Rigby, Tim; Timms, Bruce; Caslin, Alan; McMullan, Brian; Katzman, Ronna; Heit, Brian; Burroughs, Gary; standard ; mbergsma@stcatharines.ca ; drappers@vaxxine.com ; mcconnell@610cktb.astral.com ; tdenis@610cktb.astral.com ; S ; newsroom@610cktb.com
      Subject: Putting Niagara Behind The 8 Ball

      To: Michael Coakley; MY CELLirisheyes1957@rogers.blackberry.net

      Subject: Putting Niagara Behind The 8 Ball

      Councillors Rigby and Petrowski,

      I have just finished reading articles published in the St. Catharines Standard and Niagara at Large regarding the Region purchasing property in Wainfleet from Lakewood Beach Properties at a cost of over 7 million dollars. To say I was shocked by what I read would be an understatement.

      In the Niagara at Large article Mr. Draper states “the company was offering to sell half of the property to the region for something in the range of 7 million” as well as “The other half is being used by Lakewood Beach Properties to build a multi-store condominium overlooking the lake.” Mr. Draper also goes on to state that the entire property was purchased in 2005 for 3.2 million dollars. In the St. Catharines Standard article it is reported “Sources put the value of the property at about 7.5 million.”

      The conclusion I draw from these articles is that the both of you voted in favor of the Region purchasing half of the property at over double the price paid in 2005. I find this expenditure of taxpayers money completely uncalled for and unwarranted given the state of our local economy as well as the many challenges Niagara residents are facing.
      In closing I hope you will be able to explain how you could support spending over twice the amount of money on half of the property?

      Sincerely,
      Mike Coakley
      St. Catharines

    • Thanks Andy for your answer. Yet that property if even purchased by the region, would be yet one more place I am not able to get to. The region’s investment in regional transit is much more importance to me than buying up some property that only people with cars and jobs that do not take them sixteen hours a day to work at, to get to.

  8. I don’t know enough about the Lakeshore property in question to comment on it. However, there is a lakefront property in Grimsby that was purchased privately, probably for development. It’s unfortunate in this case that the town chose not to, or could not afford to purchase it.

  9. Hey Andy! if you believe the property in Wainfleet is that valuable I’ve got some more good swamp land for you down in Florida!

    • Mr. Draper’s headline is misleading. Unless I missed something the other night at Council, I don’t remember discussing or debating an “offer to purchase”. The fact is that the Region has not made any offer to date and for everyone’s benefit AGAIN the price that’s being thrown around I believe is based on a value established by a professional commercial real estate appraiser on behalf of the Region NOT the landowner.

      Mr. Vanderburgh, While normally I wouldn’t dignify such a juvenile comment like yours I will just say that it speaks volumes for your animosity towards the owner, your total ignorance regarding this subject, and your uniformed dismissal of considering the preservation of unique lands for our children and grandchildren. But then again, who am I to weigh in?

      Mr. Loucks, Thank you for YOUR professional real estate advice. You obviously have forgot that it was YOUR Regional government that paid more per lineal foot for similar beachfront land in the Wainfleet area less than two years ago not that this would establish ANY basis for comparison or not. And regarding your “relationship” comment could you please tell us what is YOUR relationship to Proud, a NIMBY organization that made Mr. Raseta Enemy Number One, and what is your relationship to the local Liberal gang that hasn’t figured out they lost yet and seems obsessed with attacking people who have a different opinion than theirs?

      In my opinion, without prejudice.

  10. I want to clarify some of the information which I beleive is in the public’s interest. I have a teraview report which shows the
    Purchase price in 2006 at $3.125 Million
    Tax Assement Value in 2006 $2.37 Million
    Current Tax Assessment Value $2.37 Milllion
    One could say the value is the amount paid or the market value assement used for tax purposes. However if you use either of those, the price the region was considering paying was a premium between $4-5 million. Now if anyone in their right mind thinks that these councillors were acting in good faith in respect to their duty to the taxpayers of Niagara, well let me say that we have a strong difference of opinion. Do I think the relationship between councillors Rigby and Petrowski and Dan Raseta influenced their judgement? That is for each of you to draw your own conclusion. I beleive the relationship between these individuals is far too close not to say their descisions benefits a close aquaintance. It is the magnitude of the premium being paid which I feel is wrong and I beleive any reasonable person would and should be concerned about this potential mismangement of taxpayer money.

    • Councillor Petrowski, I am looking out for the public interest in asking these questions. Your attack on a citizen (me) when they ask fair minded questions and base their information on government documents is completely uncalled for. As was your overzealous spray painting of city signs, bullying reputation toward Regional Staff and complete demeanor toward anyone who may take issue with the policy you forward. I say grow up.
      Mr. Petrowski, it is in the public interest that a regional rate payer question a $4 Million premium suggested for land to the friend of an elected official. I have been polite but direct as would be required by such a circumstance. Your dismissal of people with the community’s interest at heart with knee jerk comments like, public enemy number 1 is completely ludicrous. I have never made any untoward comment about Mr. Raseta. Your overreaction to fair questions with false statements is ridiculous. Are you hiding something? The fact that I pay attention to what you do as an elected official is considered a part of the democratic process.
      As for my association with community groups, I am involved in a number and I believe in advancing my local area. I am not a member of the group you mention although I do support the preservation of heritage as an asset within our community and as such I support that groups goals.
      Your open hatred toward this community group and your vitriolic comments above characterize your behavior not mine. I understand that now you have a problem with Liberals and you are associating me with them. There is just no end to your labeling of people and grouping them in such a way as to deflect attention from your questionable behavior.
      Mr. Petrowski, have you been offered anger management by the region? It would be in everyone’s interest if they would.
      I would never support an elected official giving a sweetheart deal to his or her close friend and political supporter.

  11. At a meeting held almost 3 years ago, I and others learned about the strange way this company and sadly the Ontario Mininstry of Natural Resources has for dealing with the neighbours and endangered species. The developer wanted to have a communal septic, which as I am told is not allowed in that municipality, though they may well have pushed for a change and gotten it. Not sure where that stands today, but the Mnistry of Natural Resources agreed to test to see how much water would be available for the project. The MNR oversaw this effort according the Wainfleet resident attending this meeting, which in fact drained her well, situated over a kilometer away from the project. This is against MNR’s own policies.

    Likewise there is an endangered toad (NAL ad – the Fowler’s Toad) living on that site, which would likely die off due to the clearing of habitat. Who knows what other significant trees and/or wildlife could have been lost to this development. I applaud the Region for following the path that respects the existing neighbours and wildlife.
    Christel Haeck, former St. Catharines Regional Councillor

  12. “St. Catharines regional councillor Tim Rigby – says his ‘yes’ vote was, in part, for the late Gord Harry”
    A vote based on an emotional creation that could have cost the taxpayers up to $7 millions?
    I’m glad common sense prevailed.

  13. Petrowski called the stretch of beach area a “jewel”.
    Zimmerman  said “the (owner) has kept the best portion… and is now trying to sell the regional taxpayers a pig on a poke,” she added of the other half.

    The owner bought the whole property for $3.2 millions 7 years ago and is trying of to sell the less attractive half to the taxpayers for $7 millions?
    What has the owner done to that property (both halves) for its value to skyrocket to $14 million?
    How could the Councillors who favoured the deal genuinely believe it was a good deal for the taxpayers?
    How could some of them dare meet with the owner without the Region’s prior knowledge?

  14. Andy! I have no animosity toward anyone. Here is a suggestion for you: Purchase a property in the Niagara Region and become a taxpayer! Buy a property that leaves you after paying all of your expenses including property taxes hydro, water, insurance, and maintenance just 100.00 to try to get through the month. That is the scenario that many of our seniors face after paying their property tax bill. I know this from talking to them. Many are too proud to complain. Perhaps it is time for you to stop sponging off the government and become part of the solution. The City of Hamilton has completely eliminated their regional government. Lead the way Andy! resign and ask your friends to do the same!

    • Jim, Jeff, Bernard, and whomever else wants to chime in from that side: If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then it’s Proud. Say hi to Carlos!

  15. Welcome to Fox News North.

  16. As an elected official Mr.Petrowski should be ashamed of his constant attacks and labeling of those who are simply asking questions. I agree with Mr.Loucks. Time for Mr.Petrowski to grow up!

    • Mr. Gill…Yawn. Of course a Liberal like yourself would run to the defense of your fellow pal , Jeff.

      • Mr. Petrowski, I am not sure why you think I need defending. However if you have concerns please feel free to give me a call and arrange a time to meet in person where we can discuss my concerns about your alledged breach of the municipal act and the municipal elections act. As for your reference to barn yard animals, community groups and political parties, these are your own attempts to justify why you are superior to the rest of the world. Enjoy your figments Mr. Petrowski. The rest of us will deal with what is happening in reality.

  17. Steven Rivers

    This is getting murkier all the time. Now the NPCA is trying to buy the land after requesting the municipality waive it’s parkland dedication (Township of Wainfleet Report ASR-006/2014).

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