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May. 8, 2021 | Saturday
Editorials and Opinions
Letter: Developer's lawsuit is 'insidious'

 Dear editor:

I take exception to your reporting on the Hummel Properties Inc. lawsuit against the Town of NOTL headlined as an alleged "insidious scheme" by the mayor and council on the front page of The Lake Report on April 1.

Did you not stop for a second and ask yourself “why are we publishing this tripe?” Do you not think that perhaps the "insidious scheme" in this instance is being perpetrated by the developer in question upon the citizenry of Niagara-on-the-Lake?

Rather than look at this lawsuit as yet another spurious attempt by another powerful, wealthy developer to intimidate our duly elected mayor and council because this administration won’t allow developers free rein to push through their agendas, you choose to write a two-page article about the supposed malfeasance and scheming of our mayor and council.

Not unlike the coverage you gave Benny Marotta in your Feb. 21, 2019, issue with your huge banner headline “Town will pay ’a fortune’ in legal fees,” this smacks of muckraking reportage and possibly an "insidious scheme" on the part of wealthy developers to use your newspaper to undermine the confidence of our mayor and council to make appropriate decisions and the loyalty of the citizenry to support those decisions.

Thankfully, we have a mayor and council who are unafraid to stand up for what is right and just for Niagara-on-the-Lake and thus far the legal system has backed them up. As you reported last month, the Superior Court denied Mr. Marotta’s spurious claim against the town’s heritage designation of Randwood and ordered the Town and SORE a combined award of $170,000 in costs.

Other than regurgitating precisely what Mr. Hummel’s lawyers fed you by way of their factum claim to the court did you question any of the motives of Mr. Hummel or his lawyers in providing you with this documentation? Did you investigate and ask questions of former CAO Holly Dowd or planning director Craig Larmour? Mr. Larmour’s statement, ”Council did not seek his position on the appropriateness of interim control” begs the obvious question: Being the expert staff dealing with a new council, did you not think it incumbent for you to offer an opinion or make suggestions to council, if you believed it to be inappropriate?

I would have thought their simple admission reported at the end of your article would have raised a question or two: “The lawsuit acknowledges the Planning Act does not require the public be given advance notice of a proposed interim control bylaw and there is no right to public participation in the process.”

Is that not largely the basis of this claim? And actually when you stop and think about it for a moment maybe that is why the Planning Act is written in this way – so that councils don’t have to telegraph to developers that they want to put an interim control bylaw in place to pause all action until maybe a new official plan can be put in place?

I would also like to point out the context of November and December 2018. Perhaps you don’t remember that this mayor and council were elected on their promises to finally deal with our 24-year-old Official Plan, enactment of a tree bylaw and to listen to and heed resident concerns with rampant development. And then within days of the election Mr. Marotta began his clear-cutting of the tree canopy on Randwood (Nov. 15, 2018, issue of The Lake Report) to pre-empt the upcoming tree bylaw before the swearing-in of the new mayor and council.

It’s bad enough that we have a provincial government firmly entrenched in the deep pockets of developers steamrolling through developments with ministerial zoning orders (MZOs) in direct contradiction to the Planning and Heritage Conservation acts, pushing through a needless Highway 413, paving over valuable farmland and provincially designated wetlands and now expecting municipalities in the midst of the pandemic to update their official plans to free up more developable lands for 2051.

I could go on with the way in which some local developers, having received approval for development, do nothing for years and leave an unsightly, uninstalled pool for years on the front lawn of a very visible key property at the entrance to the "prettiest town in Canada," or worn ugly hoardings on Queen Street, or on how many other articles The Lake Report has published unquestioningly taking the side of developers trying to bully our elected officials.

I will simply end with a big, big thank you to Lord Mayor Disero and our town councilors who have had the backbone to stand up to intimidation and inuendo and are not in the pockets of the developers, but rather simply represent the best interests of the citizens of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Bob Bader


Editor's note: We appreciate the writer's opinion this issue but note that we have since obtained the town lawyer's response to Hummel's allegations and reported on it this week. All our reportage is based on the documents filed in court. As for journalists questioning witnesses, when covering an ongoing legal matter, all reporting is restricted to what happens in court.