‘Some things just don’t belong’ in a residential neighbourhood, council told
Almost 50 people turned out at Niagara-on-the-Lake town hall Tuesday night to voice concerns about a developer’s plan to replace the old Parliament Oak school with a hotel.
Peter Lesdow, an architect representing developer Two Sisters Resorts Corp., shared early sketches for a four-storey hotel with 129 rooms plus banquet halls, a restaurant, bar and patio.
The architect has included 197 parking spaces, 189 of which will be underground.
The residents who came to council were not at all on board with the plan by developer Benny Marotta.
An architect who worked on the Queen’s Landing hotel project called the Marotta proposal “a cancer.”
“You can’t have a tourist property in the middle of a residential area,” Wayne Murray said. “It’s just poor planning.”
“I never imagined that anyone would consider dropping a cancer into our community,” he said.
The old school is surrounded on all sides by single-family homes.
Gage Street resident Judy McLeod emphasized, “This is not at all compatible with the low-rise, low-density adjacent residential neighbourhood.”
Many of the residents who spoke argued that a hotel would be a bad fit.
“Some things just don’t belong,” said Connie Tintinalli, a NOTL resident and member of the advocacy group Preserve Our Special Town.
In a report by SGL Planning and Design, the developer compared the proposal to other hotels in town, including Queen’s Landing, the Prince of Wales, Oban Inn, and Pillar and Post.
Tintinalli also compared the proposal to those four hotels but noted a few differences.
The Oban Inn was “similar in scale, massing and detail to the surrounding homes,” because it was originally built as a home and then converted to a hotel in 1895.
Queen’s Landing is separated from residential homes and the Prince of Wales blends in with the surrounding residences, Tintinalli said.
As for Pillar and Post, it is adjacent to parks and gardens to the east and southwest, she said.
Coun. Erwin Wiens pointed out residents were up in arms over Queen’s Landing before it was built in 1990.
“It was the end of the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake as we know it,” Wiens said, describing the reactions of residents at the time.
Coun. Maria Mavridis said Queen Street, which is home mainly to commercial and retail enterprises, is surrounded by houses.
Residents were as concerned about traffic as they were about the compatibility of the building.
“This property will have serious parking problems and the town will respond to them by widening the streets and providing on-street parking,” Murray said.
Marilyn Bartlett pointed out the developer is proposing fewer parking spaces than what the town’s bylaw requires.
A parking review submitted to the town on behalf of the developer said the town normally would require 267 parking spaces.
The author of the report, Altaf Hussain, says this may be an overestimation of the hotel’s parking needs since the restaurants and banquet halls primarily would be used by guests.
Resident Lyle Hall, who questioned the need for a hotel in the first place, said the developer’s assertion about parking was “nonsense.”
Hall also argued that between all the proposed and approved hotels now on the town’s books, as many as 484 new rooms could be coming to Old Town – not counting the 129 proposed by Marotta.
Old Town has 622 rooms already, he said.
Anne Street resident Nancy McCree shared a story about how her sister was killed in a hit-and-run when she was only 12.
She said she and her family have been trying to escape “rampant development” specifically because of the dangers posed by traffic.
She worries the children in the neighbourhood will be at greater risk to drivers if the hotel goes ahead.
“Our neighbourhood streets, even those with sidewalks, are becoming increasingly unsafe.”
McCree and fellow resident Hirem Baran both said the hotel’s workers would need to commute and there would not be sufficient space for them to park.
As well, hotels in town are already struggling to find local workers and are starting to hire commuters, Baran said.
Some operators were even going to the government for seasonal workers, she said.
“These are minimum wage or low-wage jobs anyway. And they won’t be employing the local people.”
A few in the crowd suggested it would be better if the developer could build something for the town’s aging population.
Resident Irene Bader said she’d like to see an assisted living facility.
It would mean more living spaces and would provide jobs to nurses, personal support workers and other health care staff.
“Encouraging the development of an assisted living facility will go a long way in supporting our neighbours,” Bader said.
Her neighbour, Nancy Bongard, said she is going to need just such an arrangement.
“We desperately need an assisted living facility, much moreso than another hotel,” she said.
She added that an assisted living home would be instantly filled because there is a long list of aging residents looking to get into one.
Like others who appeared before council, Baran urged the town to reject Marotta’s plan “in its entirety.”
By Evan Loree, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on May 11, 2023 at 11:17