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Day 6 of NOTL's Rand tribunal: Several heritage buildings to be destroyed

The developer's heritage planner told the Land Tribunal hearing the buildings to be demolished "will be commemorated."
The wall around the Rand Estate property, as seen from the Charlotte Street entrance to the Upper Canada Heritage Trail, is expected to be preserved.

Several buildings on the Rand Estate property will be demolished to make room for a subdivision, but will be commemorated, says Leah Wallace, a heritage planner representing Solmar Development.  

Wallace, a former senior heritage planner for Niagara-on-the-Lake, was being questioned Tuesday at the Rand subdivision Land Tribunal hearing on behalf of the developer, who could build up to 196 homes on the historic property in NOTL’s Old Town.  

A carriage house, two sheds, stables, and the Calvin Rand Summer Home are planned to be knocked down, but “appropriately commemorated within the context of the Rand Estate,” Wallace told the tribunal and lawyers representing other parties involved in the hearing, which is expected to run until May 19.  

However, structures such as a bath pavilion, as well as a “whistlestop walk” would be relocated and restored, she said.  Gates sitting at the panhandle entrance, if used as access to the subdivision, will need to be changed, said Wallace. “They need to be deconstructed and the entrance needs to be widened slightly.” 

Ontario Heritage Act applications have been filed with the province, she said, adding that interpretive signage will be part of the final product if the subdivision moves ahead.  

A stone wall that stretches around the entire property is an “important feature” and will be conserved if the project is built. “For all intents and purposes, the property will look very much the same,” said Wallace, adding that a pool garden, trees, and tea house will be protected “as much as possible.”  

The garden will be partially encroached on if the development goes ahead as planned.  

Wallace said some archaeological work has been completed and that paying tribute to First Nations and the area’s Indigenous history will be part of commemoration plans.  

If artifacts and other significant findings are unearthed while construction is taking place, this will need to be investigated, she said. “All work will cease, and a licensed archaeologist will be engaged.”

A character study was recently adopted by the town for the area, but Wallace said that study doesn’t apply to the subdivision site because it relates to the town’s 2019 Official Plan, not the 2017 Official Plan that was in place when work started on the proposed development. “It’s not applicable at this moment,” said Wallace.  

Eleni Girma Beyene, an engineer, had taken the stand Monday, day five of the the virtual proceedings, and was also cross-examined. 

A cross-examination of Solmar arborist Bill Buchanan, who recommended a tree management plan be undertaken, started Friday and was concluded Monday.  

With status in the merit hearing are the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Solmar Development, residents Blair and Brenda McArthur, and Save Our Rand Estate (SORE), a grassroots organization opposed to what Solmar, owned by developer Benny Marotta, is proposing.    

Speaking to The Local Tuesday, SORE member Judy McLeod commented on how she believes the hearing has gone so far, even though no witnesses have been called by SORE to deliver evidence. “It’s the early days, but I do think our cross-examinations, as well as the town’s and the McArthurs’, have gone quite well,” she said.  

After being cross-examined by town lawyer Nancy Smith and SORE lawyer Catherine Lyons, tribunal vice-chair Scott Tousaw asked about references in Wallace’s remarks that a stable on the property may be sitting atop contaminated soil, to which Wallace said a Solmar witness scheduled for Thursday would be best-suited to speak about that matter.  

Tousaw also asked Wallace about whether heritage features within the subdivision would be accessible to the public through the panhandle entry at 200 John St.  

“It will be a condominium access road, so I guess technically it’s private,” she said, also noting it can be accessed by a sidewalk. “This will allow people to have access,” she said. It will not be “like a gated community,” said Wallace.  When Tousaw asked if he understood correctly that Wallace is confident there will be public access to a private condo road, she replied, “I’m pretty confident, yes.” 

Wednesday is a day off and the hearing resumes Thursday with Solmar witness Mark Shoalts, an engineer and past-president of the Ontario Association of Heritage Professionals. He began providing evidence Tuesday about 30 minutes before adjournment.  

About the Author: Kris Dube, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Kris Dube covers civic issues in Niagara-on-the-Lake under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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