Monday, July 7, 2014

WHAT'S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT A PARKING LOT?

You'd think that the parking lot on the South side of Erie Road from Derby to Ashwood was public property the way some people are carrying on about its recent sale.  Next, they'll be appealing to the OMB and putting up yellow signs saying, "Keep Our Parking Lot in Steve Boyd's Hands." Can we also expect a petition and many delegations to council?

Oh wait, let's have a study to see if this is a good idea! And, if we don't like the results, let's have another!  I see a pattern here and it isn't pretty.  How dare the Molinaros and the DiCenzos sell their parking lot to a bunch of Americuns!  (Rich Americuns at that.)  It is our birthright to have that parking lot there for Steve Boyd to make money and sometimes the beautification committee too. 

Yessiree, we can not tolerate that. Now it will be gated off like the Point Abino Lighthouse and people will have to park their cars elsewhere. Nevermind that the original plan was to build townhouses on the land until the "developer" ran out of cash. Nevermind that the Molinaros/DiCenzos had plans to develop the land should the condo deal have gone through.

Does anyone really think that its fate was to remain a parking lot in perpetuity? The same people who were all for eliminating the public parking lot area on the south side of Erie Road at Bay Beach, which was bringing in money through parking fees, are now upset that the privately owned space that was used as a parking lot will now become a private parking area for residents of the Crystal Beach Tennis and Yacht Club and the Hill Association.

Why don't these whiners ask the town why it didn't buy the lot?  Seems the town is in the property business of late, trying to buy some vacant industrial land in a Bonusing Bonanza to prop up the doomed race track for another season or two. 

Poor Steve Boyd.  Just when he thought he could continue his little side business, someone pulls the rug out from under him and he will be permanently out of business in September.  From his now deleted remarks on Facebook, he had a bad summer last year, barely broke even.  (That was before he realized that such undeclared income might be problematic in his run for councillor in Ward 5 and he erased those remarks and said his son runs the parking lot.)  And he declares every cent he makes in the parking lot. Sure.

See folks, it's just like Joni Mitchell sings: "You don't know what you've got 'til its gone. They paved paradise and put in a parking lot."



16 comments:

  1. CorruptionFighterJuly 7, 2014 at 5:37 PM

    disagree with you Madam Editor, the last thing the beach needs is another fence on what had the potential for park space for everyone to enjoy.

    The CBTYC was a very large mistake, back in its day. Lets not keep making them. Manufacturing jobs are not returning here any time soon(with cheap third world labour today), we have to play up our tourism potential to attract money and thus jobs.

    This all assumes that the property was even offered for public use. Likely not.

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    1. I agree about the CBTYC. Just about killed the Beach. How much better off we'd be today if that had been made into a public park/resort area.

      I remember how some of us tried to save the Thunder Bay Golf Course. Private property of course even though the developer sold the early houses as being on a golf course. Even had a golf pro on the sales team. Now the course is gone and houses are springing up in its place.

      As to the parking lot on Erie; I'm surprised it hasn't been developed sooner.

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  2. Too bad if the parking lot adjacent to the CBTYC won't remain a parking lot for the public. We all hope that the restaurants and stores along Erie Road prosper.
    We need the parking spaces, otherwise the businesses are choked.

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  3. Need more attractions to promote tourism, great beach, need more than wine making, fried chicken, mismatched white painted junk pretending to be french furnature, convenience store junk food, overpriced ice cream, pissy smelling tavern type doo dah, to really get people to stay and appreciate the ambiance of the parking lot that is Erie Road. Tourism...you be the judge...

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    1. It seems to me that “the parking lot that is Erie Road” is big enough to accommodate a park-like setting with trees, private parking for residents of the Hill, some public parking for the business section of the village, AND a low-rise boutique hotel with an indoor pool and spa facilities.

      A low-rise hotel in that location would have a lot of advantages. It would provide jobs. It would ensure that the area was kept clean and well-groomed. It would mean that there would be “eyes on the neighborhood” at night, due to hotel staff. It would provide a place for people who decide to stay for a night or a few nights after using the beach and who don’t want to book a whole week at a cottage in advance. It would provide a reason for people to come to Crystal Beach when it’s too cold to swim at the beach. Moreover, many hotels with health facilities allow local residents to buy into memberships for using the pool and exercise room. This would mean more part-time residents would be tempted to stay for more of the season. Health club membership would also be an attractive option for local full-time residents and their families. Perhaps public swimming lessons could even be held there in the off-season.

      I wonder what local residents would think of this hotel idea. Perhaps it would be attractive to residents of the Hill as well, and they would be willing to sell part of the land to put it to this use.

      Of course, to attract someone to build such a hotel, the public beach needs to be fixed up. That should be the area's number one priority.

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  4. Absolutely, Meg. Parking is an issue in Crystal Beach, and it's a shame if the private lot adjacent to the Crystal Beach Tennis and Yacht Club (CBTYC) is going to be lost to the public. It's something we feared would happen all along, and our fear of losing needed parking for Crystal Beach was one of many reasons that we didn't want to see the public parking at Bay Beach lost as well, as would have happened if Molinaro's Bay Beach condo had been built.

    Molinaro and DiCenzo, the townhouse developers who previously owned the parking lot adjacent to the CBTYC (and who I believe purchased that property from Tiburzi, developer of the CBTYC) were at liberty to sell their property to whomever they pleased. We don’t know whether Molinaro and DiCenzo offered their property for sale to the Town, but probably they didn’t, since certainly nothing was made public about that. Even if Molinaro and DiCenzo had offered to sell the lot to the Town, we can imagine the uproar that would have arisen from the pro-condo east-enders at the proposal of spending money to buy this lot for the benefit of Crystal Beach businesses (although the Town seems quite willing to buy other land elsewhere).

    I do think it’s a shame that the private lot was not bought by the Town to ensure that needed public parking was maintained. Perhaps it might be possible for the Town (or some other investor) to buy some of the property for public parking from the new owners, reported to be the residents of the Hill and/or the CBTYC.

    It is rumored that the new owners intend to fence off the lot from the public. I feel that the gating off of the CBTYC is already unfortunate for Crystal Beach and its businesses, as the fencing makes it look a little like the two sides of Erie road are on opposite sides of a prison wall.

    Would the new owners need permission from the Town to fence off their property? My basis for thinking they might comes from a blog entry I read that I believe was written by Mike Cloutier on a blog he administered. His post stated that when Tiburzi originally obtained the property that formerly belonged to the Crystal Beach Amusement Park to convert it to the CBTYC, the Town gave permission to Tiburzi to gate it off only in return for Tiburzi’s transferring to the Town 600 feet of beach (from Schooley Road east to the portion of the beach that still is owned by the CBTYC). According to the post, “…the compromise for a gate was ownership of the beach.”

    http://baybeachblog.blogspot.com/2010/07/heres-where-you-can-debate-bay-beach.html

    If the Town can require a concession in return for a permit to gate the property, perhaps that concession in this case could be designating a portion of the property for public parking?

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  5. Your sudden turnaround on importance of the parking lot when you viewed it great importance for beach goers and as a tool for your opposition to the condo, and now is of no importance confuses me.

    I am curious about your attitude toward the Fowlers Toad now.

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    1. It is/was important to Crystal Beach but it is private property, just like the golf course at Thunder Bay. The town didn't buy it, so what can we do? Any suggestions?

      As to the Fowler's Toads, I hope they live long and prosper. They are considered like canaries in a coal mine. If they die off the beach's health is at risk. I'm hoping they'll help the beach get a Blue Flag designation.

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  6. But what about the Toad Habitat to ensure that they survive. I believe that you initiated communications with the MNR to address this issue as they are endangered. Is the Habitat still to be built?

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    1. Tony, no one had to initiate communications with the MNR to tell them that the toads were there; the MNR already knew. Molinaro and the Town of Fort Erie already knew too, AND they knew that the MNR knew. If you look at the very earliest documents when the Molinaro project was first proposed, you will see that the Molinaros and the Town of Fort Erie were already acutely aware that the land Molinaro wanted to build on was legally protected habitat and that they would have to try to find a way around that. The contracts had clauses in them addressing how they would react depending on how stringently the MNR stuck to enforcing the law.

      You bring up a point that is important to clarify: without the condo, the toads won’t need the artificial habitat and will be much better off without it. The artificial habitat had never been tested and may well not have worked. The safer bet is to let toads live in their natural habitat, and that’s what can be done if no condo is there.

      Normally, for their habitats, toads rely on eroded sand dunes, into whose face they can dig through soft sand to bury themselves deep enough to avoid freezing during the winter without going below the water level. Sand dunes form naturally when natural vegetation of the appropriate kind is grown in the appropriate location. Vegetated dunes not only serve the toads, but they also help keep the lake water clean and help keep the beach’s sand from eroding away over time.

      Molinaro’s plans didn’t permit natural dunes to form at their usual location, because Molinaro wanted to build a tall building and an enormous underground garage way too close to the water’s edge. To do that required that he ship in huge rocks and pile the rocks up in gigantic piles outside the edges of his garage and the washrooms next to the water, and also bury more rocks underground to provide additional support. This would have interfered with natural sand dunes and therefore with the benefits that natural sand dunes provide for toads, beaches, and water, as will as with the natural beauty that sand dunes provide for beach-goers and tourists.

      The soft, sandy, usable beach can be much larger without the artificial toad habitat, without the shipped-in rocks, and without the condo and the seas of pavement that would have surrounded the condo and served as the roof of its mammoth underground garage. And, as Sharon points out, the presence of the endangered species on the beach coupled with a model of ecologically appropriate dune management can now provide the environmental and educational component that will be perfect for attracting grants and achieving Blue Flag status for the beach, an international status symbol and tourist draw. Blue Flag status never would have been possible with the condo at Bay Beach, especially with the dirty stormwater drains that would have emptied right out onto the public beach. Yecch! Neither toads nor humans like contaminated stormwater-- and it causes beach closings due to bacteria and algae.

      This is Crystal Beach’s chance to have a beach they can truly be proud of , a model of environmental stewardship. The beach will need parking for all the tourists it will attract, and perhaps some of Greg W's ideas will be helpful in that regard (see below).

      Three cheers for the future of Bay Beach!

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  7. I think it's confusing that condo supporters didn't care about public beach parking but do seem to care about private parking away from the beach.

    Maybe they (and Tony) don’t understand that the parking lot that Molinaro and DiCenzo are reputed to be selling is NOT the same one that the Molinaro condo would have gone on. They might be confused by blog posts I've seen elsewhere (primarily by people who live on the opposite end of town) claiming that now Americans are buying Bay Beach property, which is TOTALLY FALSE (although it would have been true had the condo deal gone through). The claim suggests to me that those posters may not understand that the Bay Beach lots and the Molinaro-Dicenzo lot are completely separate lots in different parts of the village of Crystal Beach. Of course, it's also possible that those posters DO understand that fact but are hoping they can incite some more anti-American and anti-Lubberts sentiment into their readers by trying to confuse them into thinking that the lot that Molinaro wasn't able to build his condo on is now being bought by Americans. Let me repeat: TOTALLY FALSE. The lot that Molinaro wasn't allowed to build on now remains safely in the public's hands thanks to Molinaro's departure.

    The lot that Molinaro and Dicenzo may be selling to the residents who live next to it is NOT adjacent to the public beach, and, as Sharon says, is PRIVATE property. In contrast, the Bay Beach parking lots are particularly crucial because they are adjacent to the beach. Moreover, the Bay Beach lots are public property. That's why the public doesn't get to have input into Molinaro and Dicenzo's decision to sell their property but it did have input into the Town's proposal to convert Bay Beach property, including a Bay Beach parking lot, to private property.

    Molinaro and DiCenzo are in the business of building townhouses. Notice how Molinaro and DiCenzo didn't make a move to develop or sell their private property but instead left it as a parking lot that they let the public use while the whole Bay Beach condo controversy was raging? That probably was a clever tactic. If Molinaro and DiCenzo had sold or developed while Molinaro was still attempting to push through his Bay Beach condo tower, then it would have been painfully obvious to EVERYONE that there would not be enough parking in Crystal Beach if the Molinaro condo tower at Bay Beach were built.

    At this point, anyone who understands the facts should understand that there will not be enough parking left in Crystal Beach if a public parking lot at Bay Beach is lost due to the construction of private residences there. So hopefully, no matter which side of Town people live on, now they’ll retire the beach condo idea at last and accept that it would have been a bad idea anyway.

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  8. Its interesting to note, the parking fees collected by the Niagara Parks Board is used to fund a huge portion of their staffing salaries, maintenance costs and even special events. However that is a parks system. There has never been an approach to adopt a system like that here, even though its in plain view just a few miles away. Parks here are mostly sports fields, empty for the most part except for a few evenings and afternoons through the summer months, and they dont seem to generate any sort of income for the public who paid for those lands, (and the maintenance) with their tax dollars. Now it becomes a little more obvious that town owned lands used wisely can help to fund facilities for the visiting public. As in many citys, when parking becomes scarce, private property owners have people park on their lawns and empty side lanes for 5 to 10 dollars for the day. Maybe we will see that here if the lots available near the Bay beach become full to capacity at times, and street parking isnt allowed or available. I guess that wouldnt be so bad. I guess id rather give my money to a private citizen, than to a towns system that pays someone to search my belongings going through a chain link fence to access lakefront that was purchased using public funds. Imagine if the Niagara Parks Board tried that for visitors going out on Table Rock?? Chain link gates and an illegal search?? They have more class than that, I think you readers would agree. So what went wrong here?

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  9. I had contacted the MNR about their crazy plan to corral the toads and pointed out that they under their own guidlines were a protected species, after much passing of time and the news about the Molinaro Towers failure, they E-mailed me an answer, basically that no further action needed. My inquiries were as my role, within the Green Party. So they got themselves of the hook by doing nothing and wait and see. Don Lubberts saved them some embarrassment , now the useless Liberals are back in power.so the same deadbeats are in control.

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  10. The "Toad Issue" was in many cases the first exposure many people in the area got regarding endangered species in a public space under threat from developers.Even the mayor himself expressed frustration (now his middle name) at having to wait for a "Toad Permit" from the MNR. There have been a number of examples where endangered or species at risk present in an area have forced companys with plans to destroy habitat to cancel those plans. Thousands of hectares of forest in BC was protected from clearcutting in the 1980,s to save Spotted Owl habitat. Soon T shirts were being sold showing Spotted Owls on Bar B Qs worn by redneck loggers. There have been other examples as well.The owl is an attractive and interesting species. The Fowlers Toad, not so much, (unless youre another toad I guess). The MNR both provincial and federal have a very clear, court approved mandate and you do not want to test their abilitys to stop work that threatens habitat either accidental or deliberate. To say they did nothing only shows you that they work quietly without a lot of publicity. Theyre also not prone to change or compromise. The wetlands issue regarding a proposed racetrack will likely be the next example of "what not to say" by the tax funded staff trying to move foreward with this project.Speaking of the new Liberal majority in Queens Park, a few hotheads said a little too much and now Mom Gwynn is probly going to give the 7 dwarfs at the horsetrack a financial spanking. Best not to make the same mistake with the MNR, either provincial or federal.

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  11. The private parking lot along Erie rd has been offered for sale but as of yet it has NOT changed hands. All this handwringing about the CBTYC & the Hill association
    fencing it of for their own purposes is a bit pre-mature. The CBTYC only want a small portion of the land for their own purposes NOT for parking. The hill owners require more parking for their own use but has anyone considered that they still may have a portion for public paid use to help offset their purchase costs. In my opinion this constant barrage for "THE SKY IS FALLING GROUP" need to take a deep breath & wait to see what happens. There must be more important issues to work on.

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    1. Thanks for the information, Curious. It sounds as though the prospective new purchasers will be reasonable, as I had thought they might be.

      The information from OTHER SITES (based primarily on reports from a person who works at the parking lot and is running for office) was that this deal has been said to be a done deal and that the whole thing would be fenced off. Apparently you haven't been to those OTHER SITES or you would see that THEY are depicting this as a doomsday sell-off to Americans that will destroy Crystal Beach and that (surprise, surprise) is a reason to vote out the councillors who fought for Bay Beach to remain entirely public. THEIR headline for the parking lot sale story was “Americans One Step Closer to Owning Our Bay Beach Lands,” and featured multiple photos of wrought-iron fences for dramatic effect.

      Sharon responded with her post entitled “What’s all this fuss about a parking lot?” Here I am seeing people DISPUTE the other sites’ conclusions that this will destroy Crystal Beach and instead discuss possible options. The area in question represents a large and crucially located area in the business/tourism section of Crystal Beach and, while it is a private transaction that the public cannot control, I don't see the harm in looking ahead and thinking about the future of Crystal Beach, do you? Simply waiting to see what happens can result in not all possibilities being considered, as we have seen happen in the past. Perhaps if we put our brains, resources, and contacts together, ideas will result and be able to come to fruition that wouldn't have otherwise.

      I do agree that there are more important issues, specifically the beach. However, discussions of the beach (which soon will be a hot topic under official consideration by the Fort Erie Council) cannot be divorced from discussions of the rest of Crystal Beach when planning what will go where. This is particularly true because there are those who claim that restoring the beach should not be emphasized because, according to them, the village has no tourism potential without the condo. I think just the opposite: that the tourism potential of the village has just been unleashed now that the condo struggle is over.

      With that in mind, let me suggest a few more ideas (in addition to the hotel I proposed earlier), in response to Puerto E's concern that Crystal Beach tourism needs more attractions: (1) A bed-and-breakfast, possibly in the Derby Road or Queens Circle area or in one of the homes along the beach, (2) Change the old roller skating rink to a new roller skating rink or a movie theatre--the area REALLY needs a small movie theatre like the one that used to be in Ridgeway, (3) A coffee shop and bakery, (4) a public market, some amusement rides, miniature golf, skeeball, bowling, laser tag, go-karts, bumper boats, a drive-in movie, and (5) a small museum highlighting the old amusement park and the Fowler's Toad.

      I see Crystal Beach as being a much busier tourist attraction again soon. Now that it has been freed from the threat of the condo on its beach, investors will have the security they want before becoming involved in beach-related attractions and beach-dependent lodging. If parking for the public continues to be provided at the main lot by the Hill, then perhaps the parking-on-the streets idea mentioned by Greg won’t be as necessary, except on the busiest days, now that the three lots at the beach have been saved. Some kind of control of on-street parking will still be desirable though, in my opinion, in fairness to local residents, and to increase the parking revenue that will help maintain the beach.

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