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Jan. 18, 2020 | Saturday
Editorials and Opinions
Letter: Developer Benny Marotta responds to town’s growing legal bills
Developer Benny Marotta. (File photo)

Dear editor:

Like so many other residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake, I read with interest the article published in The Lake Report and online at Niagara Now referencing the town’s budget for legal fees increasing by $1 million in 2020.

And while we agree with Lord Mayor Betty Disero that it is normal for municipalities to have ongoing lawsuits, we don’t agree that spending this large sum of money is common for small municipalities such as ours.

I would like to take this opportunity to address my fellow residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake to share our perspective on the events of the last two years.

As an active member of the business community here in Niagara, it was our dream to build a hotel, so it is regrettable that the dispute regarding the Randwood Estate has become more than a legal battle and political issue. It is deeply personal, with attacks levied against our family by a vocal few.

It is and has always been Solmar’s intention to work collaboratively with the town. It’s unfortunate that incomplete drawings of our plan for the Randwood Estate were shown at a heavily attended public meeting, causing a groundswell of negative sentiment for a project that we are so passionate about.

The premature sharing of these designs is what prompted us to apply to LPAT –  the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal – without the participation of the town’s design committee. It is our intention to submit new plans and work hand-in-hand with stakeholders to come to an agreement.

I’d also like to address the much-discussed cutting down of trees at 200 John St. to prepare the land behind the hotel site. Let me assure you that we would never proceed without approval.

Solmar followed the required application process and was approved to commence the work. It was not until after the work was complete that charges were laid by the town for cutting trees. This information is available in the public affidavit that has been filed.

Finally, the lands for Solmar’s planned community on the Rand Estate have already been zoned residential for years, prior to the transfer of title by the previous owner of the lands, making the interim control bylaw on development in Old Town questionable.

Whether it is Solmar or another development company, the plan is for these lands to be built on. The interim control bylaw is costing more in legal fees as it is hurting other developers as well.

At this time, the town is facing more than 12 court battles, including a lawsuit from another developer calling for $500,0000 in damages. It is in the best interest of everyone – residents and taxpayers of this great municipality – that the town work collaboratively with developers, including Solmar, to resolve these issues.

Over the past 30 years Solmar has built an impressive reputation developing and planning communities throughout southern Ontario, with excellent Tarion ratings along the way.

In addition, we have worked closely and successfully with Niagara-on-the-Lake in the past to develop Cannery Park in St. Davids, a well-planned community that is home to many families currently thriving in school and local businesses.

These types of communities continue to help grow the economic viability allowing families the opportunity to continue to live here generationally, the future of every municipality.

The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake spent hundreds of thousands on legal fees in 2019. In 2020 the fees will be much higher than in 2019, and it’s the taxpayers who will pay the bill. It is my sincere hope that the councillors elected will consider the future economic and tourism opportunities for the community as a whole, for today and tomorrow.

Benny Marotta

NOTL

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