When Will This Assault on Niagara’s Natural Heritage End?
Join the Online Public Meeting, This Coming Tuesday, October 6th, at 4:30 p.m. – More Details Below
A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted October 5th, 2020 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – Well here we are – going on five full years now – and the City of Niagara Falls, Ontario’s Mayor Jim Diodati’s is still hosting public meetings on one of a pet project, scorned by so many citizens across this Niagara region.
The pet project in question is a controversial plan to urbanize at least part of some sprawling green lands in a Niagara River watershed we have made pledge after pledge with our American neighbours to treat with care for present and future generations.
These lands, covering some 484-acres in the southwest end of Niagara Falls, have become known to many in Niagara and beyond our region’s borders as ‘Thundering Waters Forest’.
Why has Thundering Waters Forest become so well-known and such a topic of public concern.
At least one reason is this –
According to field mapping done by experts in the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, this forest in one of the major watersheds Canada shares with our neighbours in the United States is home to more than 200 acres of provincially significant wetlands.
And wetlands, as multiple experts around the world have told us, play a vital role in preserving biodiversity – webs of life we humans also depend on for our survival – and also play an important role in protecting both life and property from the din protecting both life and property from the destructive forces of climate change and pandemics like the one we are now collectively suffering through.
Yet here we are, moving into the third decade of a 21st Century where there are no excuses left for not learning from so many bad urban planning decisions made in the past, and the City of Niagara Falls is holding another public meeting this Tuesday, October 6th at 4:30 p.m., on plans by a China-based corporation called GR (CAN) Investments Ltd to cover at least a portion of these lands with a so-called “Riverside Community” that would feature a mix of residential, recreational and commercial buildings.
The carrots GR has continued to dangle for supporters of this project, including Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati and a majority on the city’s council, is GR’s claim that it has a value of about $1.5 billion and would create thousands of direct and indirect jobs.
That may be just plain dandy for Diodati and company, but for the projects many opponents it can never replace ecological features in an internationally significant watershed that may be compromised or lost forever if this project goes through.
So why not construct this “community” somewhere else in the city or region where what little is left of Niagara’s significant wetlands are not an issue?
That is a question that GR representatives and the City of Niagara Falls have never seemed willing to answer.
Instead, we have heard representatives for the China-based corporation complain about citizens in this region, opposed to this project at this location, standing in their way.
What may really be standing in their way is their own failure to do what lawyers call due diligence before they bought this land from a local developer in the first place.
Why did they not find out what the rules and regulations are in Ontario for building in or around provincially significant wetlands, or PSWs, as they are called in the business?
Why did GR not have its own people go out with field experts from the province’s Ministry of Natural Resources and get the land of that land and its ecological importance, visa vi a great bi-national Niagara River watershed, before it moved forward with this development plan?
Or did parties in this Niagara region and this province give this foreign-based corporation reason to believe, some five or more years ago, that that whatever rules or obstacles or opposition there may be, it would ultimately be granted approval to do what it wants?
GR and others can blame citizens in and outside this region all they want for the fact that there has been no approval to date. But all these opponents want to do is protect what is left of Niagara’s precious natural heritage for present and future generations.
Yet here we go with another public meeting, and perhaps one of the few sighs of relief that GR and its enablers can breathe this time is that this meeting, due to the going COVID-19 health emergency, will be held electronically, on line.
Unlike this past January 2020, when the last public meeting on this project was held, or meetings going back to one in January of 2016 at the Balls Falls Conservation Park in the Town of Lincoln, there won’t be two hundred or more citizens facing down the proponents in a packed hall.
That doesn’t mean that many area citizens will not be there in spirit and will not remember those who have so shamelessly supported urban sprawl in this environmentally sensitive and significant location when the next municipal and provincially elections are held in Ontario, in just two short years.
Don’t think for a moment that Niagara citizens are not making a list of those politicians who are working to enable planning that may serve someone’s immediate monetary interests, but is so environmentally and economically unsustainable for our region in the long run.
So once again, the latest public meeting on the Thundering Waters Forest issue is scheduled for this Tuesday, October 6th, 2020 at 4:30 p.m. and apparently you can find your way to it online by keying the webpage niagarafalls.ca/councilvideos .
To review or learn more about the so-called ‘Riverside Community’ application to develop this area, click on niagarafalls.ca/planning .
For earlier stories on this controversial project, posted on Niagara At Large and other media lick on –https://niagaraatlarge.com/2020/02/01/niagara-citizens-pack-room-to-oppose-billion-dollar-development-abomination-for-thundering-waters-forest/
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