The residents of St. Davids are feeling neglected.
Their corner of town, referred to as a “settlement area” in the official plan, has grown from a quaint village to a “rapidly developing urbanized community” that represents about 20 per cent of the population of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Mike Pearsall, vice-president of the St. Davids Ratepayers Association (SDRA), told councillors Monday.
He was speaking at the public meeting to pass on the group’s objections to the latest draft of the Town’s official plan.
After a lengthy process of updating the plan, during which the SDRA brought its concerns to council many times, “we are left with just an outdated secondary plan in Appendix 4,” he said.
“While the supposedly updated plan purports to represent the entire municipality, it has ended up following the typical historic practice of focusing its entire attention on the Old Town area and a few rural areas of concern.”
The specific issues he pointed out are being ignored include a request to council for St. Davids to be considered a Heritage Conservation District, to protect its historically significant streetscape and the feel of the village.
“We have received commitment from council for action on this,” he said, and residents were disappointed to see no mention of it in the official plan, although there is a reference to an expansion area of the Old Town heritage district.
This is the time for council to take action on their commitment, he said. “It is critical that the official plan update not be finalized until such time as this is added.”
Pearsall said it is also a concern that the land use plan for St. Davids is outdated and appears to contain several errors. It fails to differentiate between residential and established residential areas, as it does for the Old Town and Queenston, and no parks or major open spaces have been identified within the village except as “community facilities,” he said.
Pearsall said the SDRA wants the privately-owned St.Davids Golf Course designated on the official plan and the secondary plan as open space or parkland.
“And while not something that can be identified differently on the schedule, it would be remiss at this point if we didn’t remind council again of the critical importance of the community pool in St. Davids.”
He also used his opportunity to speak as a reminder to council the SDRA has also asked for a community safety zone to protect pedestrians in a busy traffic area, a community centre, improved sidewalks and transit service.
He was not alone with his objections to council about deficiencies in the plan as it relates to St. Davids.
Resident John Gartner also spoke to councillors about the rapid growth of St. Davids, and the outdated secondary plan, “which is obviously not as relevant as it was when it was put together.” He too is concerned about the golf course, asking that it be considered open space and protected from development. The documents under discussion are intended to reflect the past and offer direction for the future, he said. “The secondary plan and draft official plan don’t do that.”
St. Davids resident Dorothy Walker also had a list of concerns, including the need for transit that connects St. Davids to the rest of town, she said. The author of a book about the history of St. Davids, which she calls “the village in the shadows,” she referred to it also as “the village in the shadows of the official plan.” St. Davids residents pay the same taxes as those in other areas of town, she pointed out, but are not treated equally when it comes to services. She also told councillors the community should have a library, one of “bricks and mortar,” not just the lending lockers at the fire station. And although a community pool is not mentioned in the plan, “this is a hot topic. If it’s not updated there will be a toxic reaction.”
Pearsall summed up the villagers’ dissatisfaction with the way their community is treated in the document under discussion, expected to be approved by council in April: Based on the hollow promises of the past, he said, the residents of St. Davids will not accept the official plan update being finalized until they have more than another hollow promise of a future update to the village’s secondary plan.