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Jan. 28, 2022 | Friday
Local News
Randwood owner denies demolition by neglect
Benny Marotta, owner of Two Sisters Resorts Corp. and Solmar Niagara 2 Inc. (Richard Harley/Niagara Now)

Local activists in Niagara-on-the-Lake say the controversial Randwood Estate is being neglected, while the property owner denies the claim.

Michael McClelland of ERA Architects made a delegation to town’s committee of the whole Monday night, representing Save Our Randwood Estate, a local citizen group that’s advocating for the preservation of the historic buildings and landscapes within the estate boundaries.

One of the concerns the group shared was in regard to alleged damage done to the property from a flood which happened back in January. McClelland asked how the damage is being remediated. There have also been reports of people wandering through the site, which raises safety concerns, McClelland said.

“(The estate) is a very valuable resource,” he said. “We want to make sure it’s secure.”

McClelland suggested the town to look at Toronto’s heritage building property standards in order to address a potential demolition by neglect issue at Randwood Estate.

Demolition by neglect takes place when, “the owner or tenant of a designated heritage property, either intentionally or unintentionally, allows the buildings and/or structures on the property to deteriorate to the point that they are beyond reasonable repair,” according to the 2007 minimum property standards report prepared by the city of Hamilton’s planning and economic development department.

NOTL’s property standards bylaw states that all the water, electrical and gas services should be turned off at vacant buildings and weatherproof sheet plywood should cover all openings to prevent entry.

McClelland also suggested the town enforce these two requirements to prevent further damage to the estate.

“I’m hoping that property standards can either be amended to consider heritage buildings because you don’t want to slap on plywood, you want to make sure it’s done properly,” he said. “I think there’s a necessity make sure we don’t lose these properties.”

Thomas Richardson of Sullivan Mahoney spoke on behalf of Two Sisters Resort Corp. and Solmar Development Inc. He denied the claims of demolition by neglect. His clients, Two Sisters Resorts Corp. and Solmar Niagara 2 Inc., have maintained the property under the Ontario Heritage Act, he said, and before the flood happened, all the buildings had been heated, air-conditioned and had running water, he said.

One of the main sprinkler pipes in the building burst causing flood in January. The water on the street was turned off at that time, Richardson said, but during the valve repair, the water was turned on again, causing a second flood in the building.

Heat and electricity will be restored by this fall and the cleanup is currently underway without any damage to heritage features, said Richardson.

“Our clients continue to look forward to continuing working with the town and SORE, if SORE is prepared to do so, in an attempt to resolve outstanding heritage issues,” Richardson told council. “We believe the resolution of heritage issues can be achieved through these good-faith discussions.”

Lord Mayor Betty Disero noted town staff may be coming with a bylaw for demolition by neglect in regard to the heritage properties. She also said there have been many calls and complaints from residents, who live near Randwood Estate, about the length of grass on the site.

Richardson responded his clients have been warned not to cut grass to avoid damaging heritage features.

Coun. Stuart McCormack asked if Richardson would be opposed to a bylaw prohibiting demolition by neglect. Richardson said he would like to see the bylaw first.

There are a number of legal proceedings ongoing between the town, Two Sisters, and Solmar, also known as Solmar Development Corp.

Marotta wants to build a hotel and a 160-unit subdivision and subdivision on the old Randwood Estate, while SORE has been opposing Marotta’s development advocating for the protection of the heritage estate.