SORE is deeply disappointed with the Town’s statement Feb. 14 that it is withdrawing its appeal of a Justice of the Peace decision to stay the Rand Estate Heritage Act charges against the Marotta companies due to delay in bringing them to trial.
Justice Wolfe was set to hear the appeal on February 22. No further work or expenditures other than the court attendance were required to have the appeal heard. SORE, based on advice from specialist counsel, believes there were good grounds to set aside the stay and have the charges heard on their merits and that Justice Wolfe would have ruled accordingly.
As a result, Benny Marotta’s companies have been allowed to escape without a trial on the merits and without consequences for the deliberate and outrageous clear cutting of a designed heritage landscape at one of the most important cultural heritage properties in NOTL and Niagara Region. A successful prosecution could have resulted in the reinstatement, at the Marotta companies’ expense, of the destroyed landscape. SORE and its many supporters view the failure to properly prosecute these charges and the Marotta companies’ consequent ability to avoid responsibility for their actions as a travesty of the first order and a stain on the Town.
SORE had been prepared to proceed with a private prosecution of the Marotta companies for the November 2018 clear cut. These plans were abandoned when the Town initiated its own prosecution. SORE believes it would have been successful in that prosecution.
SORE notes that there were two Council votes on the matter. The first on Feb. 10 was a 5-2 vote in favour of abandoning the prosecution, however a second special Council meeting was held concerning the prosecution on Feb. 14 due to a technical error/misunderstanding on the original vote. A motion to reopen the Feb 10. vote on Feb. 14 was supported by a majority of Council – 5 votes to 4 – but apparently a 2/3 majority was required to reopen the matter.
One could reasonably infer that a majority of Council supported continuation of the appeal based on the Feb. 14 meeting, where 5 of 9 councillors voted to revisit the original Feb. 10 vote. That Council could not find one more vote to do the right thing on a matter of such public importance is frankly bewildering. Councillors Wiens, Mavridis, Ruller and Vizzari owe residents an explanation as to why they voted against reopening the problematic Feb. 10 Council vote.
We very much hope that this highly regrettable episode does not reflect a broader abandonment of the Town’s responsibilities under the Heritage Act in favour of development interests. Nor an abandonment of the Town’s stewardship obligations under the Heritage Act and its property standards by-law with respect to the irreplaceable Rand Estate.
- Text of a letter sent to NOTL Town Council on Feb. 9, 2023, about the Solmar Rand Heritage Act prosecution.of the Marotta companies for the Rand Estate clear-cut that occurred in November of 2018