Submitted by Christine Whelan
Sept 2nd, 2021, VOL. 3 ISSUE 1
A neighbourhood garage sale was held Saturday, August 21, raising money to help with the legal challenges involved in standing up against the development that has been proposed to infiltrate the historical and environmental treasure that is Waverly Woods.
On April 25, 2022, after four years of assessment and protest, an in-depth hearing will take place that will decide the fate of Waverly Woods.
As found on the Town of Fort Erie website, “An application has been received for a Combined Official Plan and Zoning By-law Amendment and Draft Plan of Subdivision for the property south of Dominion Road between Basset Avenue to the west and Bardol Avenue and Buttonwood Drive to the east.
“The application is to develop the 14-hectare property for a residential subdivision permitting a range of residential uses along with areas of open space and environmental protection. The development includes 86 single detached lots, blocks for 96 street townhouse dwellings, one block for a 10 story apartment to accommodate 103 dwelling units, a block for stormwater management facilities, and a block for environmental protection.”
The developer is Eric Henry, owner of the Harbourtown at Erie Beach Development.
A public meeting was held on January 31st, 2018, providing the community with an opportunity to learn more about the development and to express their opinions about this proposal. This meeting can be found online in audio.
On the Town’s website, it states, the Town has not yet made a decision regarding this application.
At that time, Community Voices of Fort Erie Inc., a group of environmental activists, filed the necessary paperwork to challenge the development.
A petition was set up with these words of introduction. “A subdivision has been proposed at Waverly Beach/Erie Beach called HarbourTown Village. We object to this proposed subdivision based on the following criteria: This location is used as a connection to nature for many Fort Erie residents and has been for many decades. It has historical significance and may contain important artifacts. It is one of the few remaining spring migratory stop-overs for birds in the Niagara region. This site is used by Red-headed Woodpeckers, bats, pollinators, and other threatened species for feeding and breeding.”
The petition has recently surfaced and has, once again, become active.
A little digging brought me to Marcie Jacklin, who is coordinating the efforts.
Marcie began by explaining some of the motivations behind her passion for defending Waverly Woods. “The region has an environmental conservation overlay and environmental protection on part of it. Because it has those designations, the developer can come in but has to do an environmental impact study. The thing is, the developer is paying the person to do the study. And do you think a developer is going to pay somebody to say, well you can’t develop on this?
“It’s also an unevaluated wetland. There’s a lot of connectivity with the provincially significant wetland. I’ve got videos and photos of connectivity.”
Why The Delay?
Jacklin explained that the delay in the process is because the case was pushed through quickly under the old Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) before it was switched over to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAC). “If they had waited a week, it would be under LPAC and this would have been over years ago.”
On April 3rd, 2018, the province of Ontario replaced the OMB with LPAT.
Connecting With The Community
Marcie Jacklin and Community Voices of Fort Erie are now calling out to the community.
An online post reads, “Waverly Woods is going, going… but it is not yet gone! Now is the time for more education and fully committed community involvement to save this natural treasure,” which has now been identified by the Ontario Field Ornithologists (a group of foremost experts on birds) as a “Hotspot for Birds” in the Province.
Jacklin shared in our conversation, “We are also thinking of doing some kind of community webinar so people understand the facts and the process. I think there’s a lot of confusion about both.”
It’s All About The Hearing
“The fight right now is to have the hearing, scheduled for April 25th, in person. Right now, it’s scheduled to be online. And our experts are really leary about that,” Marcie explained.
“Our lawyer has said it is prejudicial to our experts to have to give compelling evidence online.”
The lawyer told the St. Catharines Standard in May, the “insistence on waiting for an in-person hearing was rooted in a desire to allow as many people as possible to follow along with the case.”
Jacklin stated, “We want the Town to commit to booking a room for an in-person hearing because in February if things open up (from pandemic restrictions), we were told that we could switch from online to in-person.”
Jacklin is asking residents to contact their Councillors or Mayor Redekop to support this crucial need to book this room, asking for this room to be booked, just in case. “The last thing we want in February is to be told, yes you can have an in-person hearing, then the Town saying, well we don’t have a room; it’s already booked. The room is needed for 15 days. The hearing is expected to be 15 days long. This is a big deal.”
The hearing will be open to the public. “People will be able to choose what day(s) they want to attend. I’m hoping there will be an agenda set up so people can see what will be happening each day. We are also hoping to be able to do some sort of updates, certainly on social media.”
“All of our fundraisings go to our legal costs. We have one of the top Canadian lawyers, from Toronto, David Donnelly, who wins a lot of his cases and who thinks that we’ve got a good case.”
Marcie shared that Donnelly is an environmental lawyer who also loves history.
“We’ve been doing a lot of fundraising over the past four years, but because of the pandemic, we couldn’t have our trivia night or the other ways we were raising money. We have been selling masks.
“Our masks are hand-stitched by one of our members. She’s been doing Canadian flags. She’s been doing birds. People love them. Anything we need to buy towards making the masks comes out of our pockets.
“We put out calendars. People have donated the use of old photos and historic postcards, some of them have been rarely seen.
“Finally, things opened up so we could have a garage sale. We delayed it two weeks until the border opened up. We have a lot of American friends who come over and are very supportive. We’ve been doing the garage sale every year. This was our best one ever. People donated some of the most amazing things! I think anybody who came went home with a treasure.”
Erie Beach Amusement Park
The park began in 1885 as Snake Hill Grove and was a simple picnic area in the woods along the lake. It saw modest growth until 1910 when major rides were added, and a stadium and hotel were also built.
But by the 1920s, Erie Beach Amusement Park was in decline. Crystal Beach Amusement Park, just a few miles west, was getting a lot of the business. The last season of the amusement park was 1930, a casualty of the stock market crash of 1929.
After the amusement park closed, rides were sold off, and most structures were torn down. The hotel burned down in 1935. The casino was torn down in 1976 after standing abandoned for decades.
Today, much of the old amusement park is part of Waverly Beach Park. A concrete promenade was built in 2008 to go through the ruins of the amusement park, and to provide a lakeside walking and jogging path for residents.
Additional Facts About The Development Of Harbourtown Village
Here are some other facts that can be found on the Town of Fort Erie website, https://www.forterie.ca/pages/HarbourtownVillage
- An archaeological assessment was done and can be reviewed on the Town’s website.
- An Environmental Impact Study and an Addendum to the study were completed and submitted to the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA). The NPCA is the review agency for the study and has indicated that they concur with the findings of the study.
- A Tree Preservation Plan is also required as a condition of approval.
- The majority of amusement park foundations fall within the Environmental Protection Zone which will not be developed.
- No development is proposed on Town owned land, including Waverly Beach Park and the Friendship Trail.
- 2.852 Hectares of the woodlot will be preserved. This represents approximately 20% of the entire property.
- The Environmental Protection Area will maintain an existing east-west wildlife corridor along Lake Erie to preserve wildlife corridors.
- The woods have never been owned by the Town. It has been in private ownership since at least the time the amusement park was in operation.
As of August 20, there is 8,177 petition signatures. The goal is 10,000. “Of course, not all of them are from Fort Erie but most have visited the woods at some point or maybe grew up in the area and moved elsewhere.” It’s not just a love felt by Fort Erie.
“It’s the community that keeps us going.”
You can sign the petition by searching Waverly Woods on the Change.org website.
To Contact Marcie Jacklin
Marcie would like to hear from you. She would like to hear your questions. She would like the opportunity to explain any confusion and fill in the gaps.
“I need to know what people want to know.” Marcie is eager to share the historical and environmental stores of Waverly Woods with anyone who is interested.
You can contact Marcie by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org or through Facebook by searching Save Waverly Woods.