Hundreds of Niagara Area Residents Expected to Gather to Mourn Massive Tree-Cutting by Developer
A Call-Out to All to Join the Walk and Wake from Irene Bader, one of many concerned citizens in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Posted November 16th, 2018 on Niagara At Large
“Today, as residents look over acres of barren earth and watch the heavy trucks loaded high with 200-year-old oaks and pines leave the site, they can only worry about what might come next.”
Niagara, Ontario – Hundreds of residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake will gather to mourn the loss of hundreds of majestic, mature trees that, until they were leveled by a developer’s heavy equipment earlier this week, graced the historic Randwood Estate.
Residents will meet at the corner of Charlotte and John Street at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 18th to collect their black arm bands and will then engage in an hour-long walk tracing the exterior wall of the estate.
The march will end at the parkland across from the winery at 240 John Street where the official “Wake” for the departed trees will begin at 1:30 p.m.
According to a tree inventory conducted on the Randwood Estate, the site had 434 trees including at least nine endangered butternut trees and a few endangered Eastern Flowering Dogwood. The Endangered Species Act says these trees cannot be removed without permission and without undergoing a strict assessment process.
The development of the Randwood Estate has been a contentious issue since GTA-based developer Benny Marotta began acquiring 46-acres of land around his family’s Two Sisters Winery. Alarm bells first rang for citizens in 2017 when he cleared a large section of forest at 200 John St., including areas that were identified as natural heritage forest and Greenbelt.
Residents have also sparred with Marotta over his plans to develop a six-storey hotel and residential area that many citizens and the Urban Design and Municipal Heritage Committees of the Town feel is out of step with the character of the existing community.
Judith Barnes, whose home backs on to the Rand estate was shocked and angry at the destruction she’s witnessed. “Marotta should have been seeking permits from the Town for anything he did on the Rand Estate given it’s now been designated under the Heritage Act.
We are so disappointed that Town staff were not proactive on this but now that Marotta’s employees and contractors have destroyed protected heritage assets, we are expecting a vigorous prosecution of both his companies and Marotta personally as the directing mind of his companies. We have all observed Marotta numerous times over the last few weeks, in the field, personally directing what has been going on,” Barnes said.
Photographic evidence shows that the latest clear-cutting on land behind Weatherstone Court and Christopher Street on the Rand Estate has not only stripped the land of its trees but has also caused what appears to be significant damage to the nationally significant Dunington-Grubb designed landscape, identified as part of the land’s Heritage designation. The matter has been referred to the Town solicitor for legal recourse under the Heritage Act.
As recently as October 18, 2018, in an interview with Richard Harley of Niagara Now, Marotta claimed residents’ fears about his plans for the lands were baseless as he would “complement the surrounding natural (landscape), and add to the historical and sophisticated elegance of NOTL” and that “the hotel . . . when it’s built you won’t even see it. It’ll be behind a wall and trees that are 200-feet high, and it’s only 60 feet.”
As Barnes stands on her deck listening to the chainsaws, she scoffs at what Marotta had to say. “The residents are aghast at the destruction inflicted in the last month on the Rand Estate by Benny Marotta, the person who says he loves NOTL. His actions speak much louder than his words,” said Barnes.
Today, as residents look over acres of barren earth and watch the heavy trucks loaded high with 200-year-old oaks and pines leave the site, they can only worry about what might come next.
To learn more about this ongoing tree-gutting issue, you can click on the following website for a citizens group in Niagara-on-the-Lake called SORE (Save Our Rand Estate) – https://sorenotl.ca/ .
You can also check out a recent column in a Niagara-on-the-Lake weekly paper, NiagaraThis Week/The Niagara Advance, by clicking on – https://www.niagarathisweek.com/opinion-story/9028607-a-scar-is-forming-on-what-is-known-as-the-prettiest-town-in-ontario-/ .
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