A glaring example of this is the Bay Beach Project - or whatever it is called as the name has been changed a number of times. That development was forced on the people of Crystal Beach by town staff in an unholy alliance with a big developer from Burlington. A high rise developer wanting to place two twelve story condo towers on public beachfront property against the prevailing building height limits set in an award-winning neighbourhood plan. we thought that had all been decided, but the new mayor (Martin) along with a staff recommendation, pushed through a zoning change and a Memo of Understanding that seemed to be dictated to the town lawyer by the developer.
That got a lot of people angry. It wasn't supposed to be like that in Crystal Beach. The people had suffered through an earlier town decision to let a developer build a gated community on the site of the old amusement park lands. So, when the Rebstock Family offered the Bay Beach Properties to the town at a good price, the town wisely took the opportunity, using gaming revenue for the purchase. Soon after, however, the town talked about selling off the northern side of the properties (parking lots) to fund a section of the Friendship Trail. Uh-uh, said a young man and he started a petition and was later elected to represent Ward 5 that encompasses Crystal Beach. The sale of the Bay Beach Properties was taken off the table, permanently we thought, with the adoption of the Crystal Beach Neighbourhood Plan in 2005.
But, 2006 brought in a new mayor and it wasn't long before the town planner started a campaign to turn the bay area into a wall of condos stretching, in his own words "from Crystal Beach to Point Abino." The Bay Beach Properties was to be the start of Rino Mostacci's dream. So the high rise developers, the Molinaros were brought in to put on a big show full of promises how they would transform the community with their towers. And, just on script, they scaled back to one tower, one of the oldest ploys in the book (which I'm going to write about all this.)
Four years later, the people showed their disdain for the project by eliminating the turncoat councillor who had replaced the young man in Ward 5; the bully councillor in Ward 4; and with a new councillor for Ward 6 while that councillor, Ann Marie Noyes, ran against the incumbent mayor. In an election vote tabulation that would rival the presidential election in Florida in 2000, the incumbent mayor squeaked through with five votes.
And then the assault began on everyone who had anything to do with the change in the power structure on town council. I was sued successfully for slander as I simply could not afford to defend myself. Then the so-called Four Councillors were subjected to harassment, insults, lawsuits, compliance audits, complaints to the integrity commissioner and whatever else could be thrown at them merely because they won their seats by large margins and were not falling in line behind the mayor-by-five-votes. The people elected them for a reason: they wanted the town to listen to the people, not just well-heeled developers. They were not anti-development as they were portrayed in the endless negative publicity; they were for smart development that fits in with the community and is welcomed by its neighbours.
Well, here we are, four years later and the situation has achieved critical mass. Another election fraught with problems and vicious attacks, topped off with a Developer Drama, one which is rather common in the industry: a $10 Million Lawsuit against the town and the four councillors.
IT IS AN ATTACK ON THE TAXPAYERS OF FORT ERIE: EITHER YOU LET US BUILD WHAT WE WANT ON YOUR PUBLIC PROPERTY OR WE WILL PUNISH YOU.
SIMPLE AS THAT. THE DEVELOPER WANTS THE PEOPLE TO VOTE AGAINST THEIR OWN BEST INTERESTS AND VOTE OUT THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO STOOD UP FOR THEM.
ARE YOU GOING TO LET THEM DECIDE HOW YOUR TOWN IS RUN?