By Doug Draper
By a margin of four to three, the council of Fort Erie, Ontario has voted down a controversial plan to build a 12-storey condominium along the shores of Lake Erie.
The vote, delivered at a February 14 council meeting, represents an 11th-hour victory for numerous residents in and beyond the historic Fort Erie community of Crystal Beach who’ve been battling the condo plan for the better part of two years.
Many residents in the area argued that this high-rise condo, advanced by developers who have sited similar multi-storey facilities on the northern shores of Lake Ontario, would constitute an out-of-character intrusion on a community of mostly one- and two-storey homes and business, and would also block access to Bay Beach, one of the last open stretches of beach available to the public along the Niagara shores of Lake Erie.
A bylaw was passed by the last Fort Erie council, consummating an agreement with the developers to build the condo in front of what is a town-owned beach, and was more recently supported by a hearing officer of the Ontario Municipal Board. And earlier this February, Fort Erie’s new council narrowly gave its okay to the bylaw. That decision all but dashed residents’ hopes that the condo plan would be killed by a council where four of the seven members are new and Mayor Doug Martin (an unwavering supporter of the development) was returned to office by what turned out to be five votes in a race against former Fort Erie councillor Ann-Marie Noyes who campaigned against the condo.
But then this February 14, one of the new councillors, Paul Collard, withdrew his support for the condo, just enough to overturn the town’s agreement with the developers.
“We’re thrilled about the Council’s decisions last night! The councillors of Wards 3, 4, 5, and 6 made it clear they do not want to proceed with the Bay Beach development project,” said Marcia Carlyn, a Crystal Beach area resident and a leading opponent of the condo plan in a statement to Niagara At Large. “Given the strong desire of the mayor and senior staff to move forward with this public-private partnership, it was not easy for the new Council to change course. However, they listened to their constituents and stood up for what they felt was right. When you have this many people caring so much about one thing – saving Bay Beach – I knew we would eventually prevail. We’re not there yet, but we’re a lot closer than we were a few days ago!”
It now remains to be seen what, if any steps the developers of the Molinaro Group may take to appeal the latest council decision. We’ll be watching.
It may be of interest to recall that four years ago, a newly elected council of St. Catharines expressed its opposition to a high-rise condominium plan for Port Dalhousie after it was approved by a past council. The Ontario Municipal Board ultimately approved the plan despite the new council arguing against it at public hearings.
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