A proposal to build a new 1,400 square metre multi-purpose building at Heartland Forest has been given the green light by city politicians.
Council on Tuesday unanimously backed a request for the rezoning with its approval of a recommendation report from planning staff. The proposed building will house both a museum and interpretive centre.
In fact, in a moment rarely seen in council chambers, Heartland creator and owner Dan Bouwman was given a loud standing ovation by councillors, staff and supporters in the gallery when the rezoning was approved.
Mayor Jim Diodati praised Bouwman.
“You could be living in a sunnier climate,” Diodati said to Bouwman, who was in attendance and is also the owner of Dan’s Produce. “We’re really glad you’ve chosen Niagara Falls. You have good ideas and a big heart.”
Only a staff recommendation to preserve some sections of the property as an Environmental Protection Area after a lawyer for Heartland called it unnecessary.
“That’s what Heartland Forest is all about,” lawyer Patrick Maloney told councillors at a public meeting held prior to council considering the report.
Planning, Building and Development Director Alex Herlovitch said didn’t have a problem with removing the EPA portion from his department’s recommendations. The designation was put in to rezone portions of the property identified as provincially significant wetlands.
Maloney added that requests raised at the last minute by Cytec Canada Inc., a chemical manufacturer which owns property to the east of Heartland Forest, were either not necessary or could be dealt with later in the process.
Cytec asked for a two-storey limit be place on any buildings at the site and that Heartland Forest create “some sort of evacuation protocol”.
Maloney said there is an existing 10-metre building height limit on the property and that the evacuation plan could be brought in later in the process.
The public meeting then became more of a love-in on behalf of the Kalar Road nature park and it’s owner, Dan Bouwman along with what one speaker called “his tireless volunteers.”
Flory Massi, a long time member of the Tender Wishes Foundation and a current board member of the Boys and Girls Club of Niagara, sang the forest’ — and Bouwman’s — praises.
“I am in full support of this application. Look at what has been created by Mr. Dan Bouwman and his tireless volunteers,” Massi said. “The world’s biggest treehouse, the playground, the fishing ponds and the mini putt. He’s preserved the flora and fauna.
“It’s valuable to all of us.”
No one spoke against the plan.
When it time for council to consider the report, it was quickly moved by councillor Wayne Thomson, seconded by Coun. Carolynn Ioannoni put forward a motion to delete the EPA portion of the staff recommendation. Council unanimously approved the motion. Coun. Janice Wing abstained from voting, citing a conflict of interest as her husband works on Heartland’s website.