You drive around the Niagara region enjoying the sights and perhaps the wineries. In early November gold blazes creating quite a spectacular sight. What is not so spectacular are the housing developments popping up in the last few years like out-of-control Baco Noir grapes.
Yes there is lots of open air with orchards, vineyards and farms but in certain spots you are in a subdivision frenzy. I was driving south on Four Mile Creek Road in St. Davids enjoying the sunshine and beautiful foliage when I caught out of the corner of my eye an enormous subdivision. Here and there you will see them clashing with quaint Georgian architecture. The modern is crowding out the traditional and historic. Niagara-on-the Lake (NOTL) can be a nice little enclave for the wealthy or those from large urban centres seeking to downsize. You’ll see Mercedes, Audi’s and BMW’s and a senior set looking like they are not suffering financially happily consuming $36 Truffle Pizza’s at Kitchen 76.
For the time being wineries are not directly threatened but one day who knows. As urban development sprawls land prices increase tempting some wineries to sell out. But it also threatens tourism. While in St Davids there is a huge suburban development as you head west on York Road. At the corner of York Road and Four Mile Creek Road a new condominium development Vineyard Square clashes with small town architecture.
NOTL municipal council had enacted an interim control by-law in an attempt to control development of the old town but Hummel Property had that quashed in an Ontario Court of Appeal decision in 2022. A voter in the recent NOTL municipal election was quoted in The Lake Report newspaper saying , “It’s always the Old Town or the tourism, nothing about the agriculture.”
As a lesson that might await Niagara wine country look at the tiny Condrieu wine appellation in the Northern Rhône in France. At one point recently a condominium development threated to destroy the vineyards. Public outrage quashed that development. Is this what is in store for NOTL? One also must open their eyes to burgeoning housing developments in Prince Edward County also a wine producing area east of Toronto.
People must live somewhere but to control unfettered expansion is a must to ensure the uniqueness of NOTL. The failure to do so may threaten not only agriculture and wineries but the lifeblood of tourism. When you visit NOTL would you still come if it started looking like Richmond Hill a suburb of Toronto?