“Niagara’s residents deserve better. Our environmental assets deserve protection. Our Region, our municipal governments and our Conservation Authority need to step up before there is nothing left to protect.”
This Story is from Biodiversity and Climate Action Niagara, an alliance of citizen-based conservation and environmental organizations and individuals from across the Niagara region
Posted September 27th, 2021 on Niagara At Large
According to Niagara-on-the-Lake residents, the Region has given permission for the removal of the last 2.5 acres of forest remaining on the Randwood Estate lands, now owned by the Two Sisters winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The land has already been the subject of controversial tree-cutting that had the community up in arms in 2017, and again in 2018, as 434 trees, including endangered butternut trees and Eastern Flowering Dogwood, as well as several hundred-year-old oaks and towering pines were cleared.
Residents say what happened to this historic and heavily treed property is an example of everything that’s wrong with local and regional planning and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority — organizations which all failed at some point to protect the area’s significant woodlands, creek, aquifer and important Natural Heritage Corridor.
Here’s just a few examples of how this forested site came to be denuded.
— In January of 2016, the NPCA informs a developer that “the lot is traversed by One Mile Creek . . . this lot is impacted by flood plains lands . . . under our current regulations, no new development or site alterations are proposed within a floodplain hazard . . . having Marginal Fish Habitat . . . a 15m buffer measured from the banks of the watercourse is required . . . there are several areas of the property that have been noted as Significant Woodland and Environmental Conservation Areas.
Any development or site alterations proposed within the ECA would require and Environmental Impact Study. . . the woodland areas in the Greenbelt NHS become identified as Environmental Protection Areas . . no development or site alterations are permitted within EPA lands . . . a minimum 30 m vegetated protection zone would be required for all new works adjacent to the EPA . . . the lot falls with the Highly Vulnerable Aquifer . . . a Hydrogeological study may be needed.” No Environmental Impact Study is done, no protection zones are ever implemented.
— In 2016, the previous Council in NOTL, at the request of a developer, applies to the Province to take some of the lands out of the Greenbelt to facilitate development. The request is turned down by the Province.
— The owner (?) applies to harvest trees under the Region’s woodland bylaw and good forestry practices.
— In November, 2016, a forestry consultant submits a report on 2.4 ha of heavily forested area on the site. He marks trees for removal including dead ash, however, the report notes: “good cherry, oak and hickory mast should be promoted (10/ha). 10 cavity tree supporting wildlife should be retained. White pine retained for supercanopy for raptors. Next harvest 15 years.”
— The NPCA issue a permit and the first significant forest clearing is carried out.
— A month after the permit is given, NPCA staff contact the Region to confirm who the owner is.
— Developer Benny Marotta clearcuts the forests (as shown in the photos in this post) including those areas that were identified as Significant Woodland by the Region and Greenbelt. Despite this massive destruction, the NPCA signs off on the Good Forestry Practices Permit Post Harvest Inspection Sheet.
— In 2018, clearing of 434 trees on the Randwood Estate leads to protests by NOTL citizens.
— 2021: A subdivision of 190 homes is now planned for the area. Residents say the Region has granted permission to remove the last remaining heritage woodlot that is recognized in all mapping as part of the Natural Heritage Corridor connecting the Niagara Escarpment/Niagara River with both One and Two Mile Creeks leading to Lake Ontario.
Niagara’s residents deserve better. Our environmental assets deserve protection. Our Region, our municipal governments and our Conservation Authority need to step up before there is nothing left to protect.
See our next post for another Niagara-on-the-Lake example of a developer who thumbed his nose at environmental protection and expects to get away with it.
Biodiversity and Climate Action Niagara (BCAN) is a collective of Niagara’s environmental groups and citizens that advocates for proven municipal best practices and policies that protect and enhance local biodiversity and combat climate change
For more on the Biodiversity and Climate Action Committee-Niagara, click on – Biodiversity and Climate Action Committee – Niagara
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If you scroll down to page 100 of the Auditor Generals report on the NPCA in 2018 by clicking on the link you will see how the Senior Management of the NPCA catered to the developers back in 2013 by allowing development to take place within the 30 meter buffer of a PSW. If an Environmental Impact Study demonstrates no negative impact on the wetland the buffer can be reduced. What would you think the answer would be when the developer is paying for the impact study. https://www.auditor.on.ca/en/content/specialreports/specialreports/NPCA_en.pdf