Consider expropriation for Marcy’s
By Kalvin Reid
St. Catherine's Standard
Local News - The province should begin considering the
possibility of expropriating Marcy’s Woods, says Erie-Lincoln
MPP Tim Hudak. The consumer and business services minister
is also asking the Ministry of Natural Resources to send
investigators to examine and record damage caused by landscaping
at the site recently.
"If any protections have been violated, I would
urge the ministry to immediately enforce provincial laws
and put measures in place to ensure that no further damage
is done," Hudak wrote in a letter Friday to Premier
Ernie Eves, Natural Resources Minister Jerry Ouellette
and Municipal Affairs Minister David Young.
The letter, obtained by The Standard, also indicates
Hudak toured the site Friday morning with local naturalists
and asked them to take an inventory of any damage that
has been done at the site.
"I was alarmed and saddened to discover this morning
that destruction of tree and plant life is taking place
along the driveway of the property," he said.
As part of efforts by local naturalists to convince the
province to expropriate the sensitive forest on the shore
of Lake Erie, about 75 people from the Bert Miller Nature
Club, University of Guelph students and other environmental
groups piled into two large war canoes Friday morning.
They’re paddling sections of Lake Erie, the Niagara River
and Lake Ontario to pressure the Ontario government to
expropriate the land. They’re collecting names for a petition
that has been circulating for months. When they arrive
in Toronto Monday, they’ll give government representatives
a petition calling for Ontario to expropriate the land.
"I almost feel this is a David and Goliath struggle.
But you all know the end of that story," Erie-Lincoln
MP John Maloney said at the rally Friday morning. "The
fight for Marcy’s Woods is far from over."
The 115-hectare (284-acre) property on the shores of
Lake Erie, one of the last natural stands of Carolinian
forest, was sold by the Marcy family to Dino DiCienzo
last month. Naturalists say it needs to be preserved because
it’s home to an array of endangered and rare plant and
animal species, including black maple and swallowtail
DiCienzo, owner of Canadian Niagara Hotels, has claimed
he has no plans to develop the property and will instead
use it as the grounds for a family cottage.
The DiCienzo family recently hired a landscaping firm
to widen an access road into the forest, allowing room
for a car to get to the existing cottage.
But the clearing of the driveway into the property has
caused a stir among local environmentalists who opposed
the sale of the land to DiCienzo.
Expropriation would be a waste of public money, Dino
DiCienzo Jr., said in an interview. They’ve already vowed
not to develop the property, insisting they purchased
it for about $2.8 million for "personal use."
"Should the government be spending millions of dollars
to expropriate this property when we are going to be preserving
it, irregardless?" DiCienzo said.
Hudak has asked the province to enter into negotiations
with DiCienzo, or support negotiations by a third party,
to publicly purchase the property. "If those negotiations
fail, I am concerned that the property would be in jeopardy
and I would ask that the province initiate expropriation
proceedings," Hudak wrote.
"The landscaping I witnessed this morning, which
destroyed trees and plants, gave me great cause for concern
that the woods will be jeopardized."
Hudak has tried to help the naturalists concerned about
any potential loss of the treasured land. But some of
them have criticized him for not moving fast enough.
"You don’t win a hardball game by playing softball,"
said Bruce Kershner, a naturalist from Buffalo.
Parts of Hudak’s speech Friday were drowned out by shouts
of "Expropriate! Expropriate!" and a reminder:
"The election’s coming up."
Peter Kormos, Niagara Centre NDP MPP, accused the provincial
Conservatives of 'political gutlessness' in letting the
forest change hands between private owners.
Expropriation is the 'heavy hammer' in the government’s
toolbox, Hudak said Friday.
Governments normally use expropriation when they need
to acquire more land for highways or other public infrastructure
projects. It’s a "last resort," Hudak said.
Expropriation would be costly and might not survive an
almost-certain court challenge by the DiCienzos.