Niagara Falls City Councillors Join In Putting Wetland-Gutting Scheme On Hold

A News Commentary by Doug Draper

Posted April 12th, 2016 on Niagara At Large

Niagara, Ontario – For a second time in as many weeks, a bid by China-sponsored agents and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority to “offset” – or to put it more plainly – gut more than 10 acres of provincially protected wetlands in Niagara Falls to make way for urban development has been placed on hold.

The first decision to defer moving forward with the scheme – cloaked in an until recently unheard of, yet already infamous term “biodiversity offsetting – was made this past April 7th by a majority of Niagara regional councillors, following more than three hours of discussion and debate where it was repeated over and over again that they weren’t provided enough information to make a decision.

Niagara area residents demonstrate before Niagara Falls council meeting on wetland "offsetting" scheme.

Niagara area residents demonstrate before Niagara Falls council meeting on wetland “offsetting” scheme.

And the second deferment was agreed to this April 12th by every member of Niagara Falls’ city council outside of the mayor, who is only required to cast a vote to break a tie, after a number of them also made it clear that they were not given enough information to make a decision.

Niagara Falls city councillor Carolynn Ioannoni, after the councillors heard from Ed Smith, one of three members of the public who came and spoke against destroying any of the old forest wetland to make way for some residential and commerical development loosely referred to by some as the “Paradise project,” got the ball rolling by holding up a single piece of paper she said contained the only information the council was given on the project.

That paper contained a motion which, if passed by the council, would ask the provincial government to allow the initiation of “a pilot project to allow for bio-diversity offsetting of wetlands” for the Paradise development in Niagara Falls.

Niagara Falls city councilor Carolynn Ioannoni was first out of the gate saying "shame" to lack of information council was given to make a decision.

Niagara Falls city councilor Carolynn Ioannoni was first out of the gate saying “shame” to lack of information council was given to make a decision.

All the council received “is this sole recommendation (and) I think it is shameful” said Ioannoni. “I can’t vote uninformed. …”

“You are wondering why I am upset,” added Ioannoni, looking at the city’s mayor, Jim Diodati, after reminding him that he had taken a trip to China five months ago to meet with agents for the developers and councillors has learned little about the development since, except for what it has read in the media or heard from members of the public like Ed Smith. “We are receiving calls from these people (concerned citizens) and it is getting awfully hard to do this job when we are being kept in the dark.”

Councillor Joyce Morocco joined in citing lack of information.

Councillor Joyce Morocco joined in citing lack of information.

“We don’t have enough information,” echoed another councillor, Joyce Morocco, who followed presentations by Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority CAO Carmen D’Angelo and the NPCA’s chair and St. Catharines regional councillor Bruce Timms by asking them; “What are you here really trying to tell us,” she asked as she continued searching for answers from D’Angelo and Timms.

Similar comments were repeated by city councillors Kim Craitor, Wayne Campbell and Victor Pietrangelo.

“This 13 acres (of provincially significant wetland) took undreds of years to get to where it is,” said Campbell. “How are you going to reproduce…what took hundreds of years (to create)? … I am not prepared to support this motion tonight. It is negative, it is a roadblock. …”

Councillor Wayne Campbell finds it hard to believe a wetland that took hundreds of years to evolve can be recreated by developer

Councillor Wayne Campbell finds it hard to believe a wetland that took hundreds of years to evolve can be recreated by developer

“How are we to make a decisions on what you say you aren’t here for,” Campbell told D’Angelo who said he wasn’t at the meeting to speak in favour of the Paradise project. “We have no scientific information. … You are putting the cart before the horse.”

“Do you believe that wetlands can be recreated,” Craitor asked D’Angelo, who responded; “You are asking what is on many people’s minds. … We are not there yet.”

That was enough for the council before voting to defer any further consideration of the matter.

So now we have had two council bodies – the local council for Niagara Falls and the council for all the Niagara region – faced with a motion that could set an Ontario-wide precendent for “offsetting” wetlands that are home to many species at risk and are specially designated by the province for protection – all to make way for development that could be located somewhere else where they would have a much lower impact on the natural environment.

Niagara Falls councilor wondered why a project proposed for his city was debated, as it was last April 7th, at Niagara's regional council first

Niagara Falls councilor wondered why a project proposed for his city was debated, as it was last April 7th, at Niagara’s regional council first

The reason some municipal leaders and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority seem so intent on moving forward with this scheme without putting enough details before councillors and the public to make an informed decision has raised a number of concerns and questions over what is really going on here.

And as citizen speaker Ed Smith put it near the beginning of his presentation to the Niagara Falls council, it adds up to “a very mixed and inconsistent message that has eroded public confidence.”

It also, in the view of this observer, raises questions about the competance and conduct of those, including Timms and D’Angelo, who are now running the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority which, for decades, was respected for its role as a voice for protecting and preserving what are left of this region’s natural places.

We’ll be taking a closer look at what is going on with the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority in the days and weeks ahead.

Before we leave, Niagara At Large wishes to share a message veteran Niagara Falls city councillor posted on Facebook hours before the Tuesday, April 12th council meeting –

Tonight city council is being asked to pass a resolution asking us to support Biodiversity offsetting on the lands known as Thundering Waters now known as Paradise Development.

I want to be very clear, city council has never been informed that this was coming and have been provided no information, except from the residents.

The first time I heard about it was with Chair Caslins official announcement. It has been roughly 5 months since the announcement of this development, give or take, and not ONE discussion with the members of council that the development out there would be requiring this change.

This is a huge shift in policy. I would not have supported phase 2 of that land if this information had been given to me. Once again, council was asked to vote, and did and passed a development without the full information we needed to make an informed decision.

This is not the first time, but it should be the last. Decisions are being made without the public or the councils knowledge. This is a terrible way to run this city. – Carolynn Ioannoni

NOW IT IS YOUR TURN. Niagara At Large encourages you to share your views on this post. A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who share their first and last name with them.

Visit Niagara At Large at www.niagaraatlarge.com for more news and commentary for and from the greater bi-national Niagara region.

 

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7 responses to “Niagara Falls City Councillors Join In Putting Wetland-Gutting Scheme On Hold

  1. Sheila Krekorian

    I happened to follow a visibly ill Ms Ioannoni out of the meeting which was vey well attended. She spoke to the developer’s representative who confirmed there wasnt just a deposit on the parcel of land in question (as alluded to during the formal meeting); it has already been purchased. I was so pleased that Ms Ioannoni called out the Mayor, the NPCA and this whole underhanded process to push through this “development”. I am still unclear how the motion to fast track the offsetting scheme appeared on the NF meeting agenda if NPCA didnt request it.

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  2. Was it not recently reported that Regional Chair Caslins was in contact with the Liberal government in Queens Park requesting the approval of this biodiversity blight proposed for the City of Niagara Falls by NPCA ChairTimms and CAO D’Angelo? When might I ask was this approved by the true stakeholders of the lands in question the taxpaying equity holders
    Yes there was a town hall meeting type of get together held where this Bio Diversity was skimmed over by the two “Civil Servants”, NPCA ChairTimms and CAO D’Angelo and YET it seems they do not take “NO” as being a rejection by the taxpayers of an agenda made in hell..When will the dog catcher positions somewhere in the Region be open and do you think they might be capable?????

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  3. I just want to say that I fully support biodiversity offsetting , it’s time to raise a different voice. I’ve been living in St. Catherines for 14 years and so sad to see the business moving out and losing jobs every year. To pause over 10,000 jobs development in this region in order to protect 13 acres wetland which is only 0.5% of the grand schedme over there , doesn’t make sense to me. Think about that 3:1 radio they offered, why that is not a better deal to protect the environment ?

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  4. pat scholfield

    The most impressive person at this meeting and the region was Ed Smith. Who is this guy? He sure knows his stuff and is not afraid to speak his mind. Had it not been for him, the NPCA might have run rough shod over the crowd and convinced them that bio diversity offset is actually possible when it isn’t in most wetlands, except for ponds.

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  5. Dear Mr. Liu, can l cut off your hand and replace it with a state of the art bionic one?
    Also, who is being paid off here? Makes no sense otherwise. What 10,000 jobs? Building trades for a couple of years? Then what? Cleaners, waiters?

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  6. Please don’t let this happen!

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  7. When I first heard this proposed I wondered who was playing GOD? Then I carefully read what was proposed and by who and the stink rose up like sulphur from hell. In my opinion and I do have ONE; the Developers in this region seem to control the voice of the elected representatives of the people and one has to wonder how is this possible in a supposed DEMOCRACY?
    The nasty Threats, Censuring and Law Suits are particularily devastating as they completely over ride the DEMOCRATIC rights of the taxpaying citizens….To Question and get truthful answers.
    I was warned by a friend to be careful of the woring I used in our need for transparency and accountability….Actually it seems a malaise has settled into this Region (I can’t speak for other Regions) and the sooner we have the next election the better as many people are literally disgusted with what has transpired during the past few years.

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