Surf’s up on Golf Woods Drive – unfortunately

Water flows by Golf Woods Drive and onto Vintners Lane during last Friday’s rain.

By Mike Williscraft

NewsNow

It appears there is a new fishing hole in Grimsby – all that is missing are the fish.

And one would have to be ready to sit out in the rain as flow of water comes only during heavy rains.

Residents on Golf Woods Drive in Grimsby have experienced the new and unwelcome stream which flows right down a new, under construction  laneway which has been carved into the Niagara Escarpment and – for at least two residents – into their basements after the last two storms.

For Vintner’s Lane resident, Ron Weaymouth, who lives immediately adjacent to the flow of the water coming from the new construction – which runs all the way from the toe of the escarpment to the bench at the top – the approval for the clear cutting and construction through pristine forest never made any sense.

The water flow actually exited a construction site to the west of a new construction site, traveled west and ran behind the two houses at the south end of Golf Woods.
Then it followed the pathway between Golf Woods and Vintners, and out onto Vintners Lane (photo included) before running down Vintners Lane creating a huge pool at Vintners and Muscat Drive

With Friday’s rain, Weaymouth’s basement has flooded twice, all his worst fears have materialized.

“It’s the second time (Friday night) in three weeks,” said Weaymouth on Monday.

“After the first one, the insurance may have said it was an act of God. That was a heavy rain. Friday it didn’t rain nearly as hard. This cannot be ignored. It will only get worse.”

The Niagara Escarpment Commission, which has earned a reputation over the years as an intense defender of the world renowned UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve that is the escarpment lands, actually rejected the project, which led to an appeal which eventually made its way to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, where it ultimately got approval.

“That really makes no sense,” said Grimsby Coun. Reg Freake, who walked the scene Saturday to see the damage done by the second flooding of the area first-hand.

“The NEC rejected it. It should not have gone any further. It will be interesting to find out how approval was rationalized.”

Weaymouth was more blunt.

“We haven’t had one drop of a water problem in the 20 years we have lived here,”

said Weaymouth, noting he is the first and only owner of his home since it was built.

“I talked to the owner Saturday when he came around to check the flooding. He was very dismissive. It makes no sense what they were allowed to do. They went in there and clear cut trees and stripped the land.”

“Now the water, mud and debris flow right down the hill. What did they think would happen? The Region can’t get a permit to build the Bartlett extension, but this guy can clear land up the hill for a laneway? I suspect there is a more to this than meets the eye.”

In support of the application in May 2020, an engineer with IBI Group noted, “The proposed laneway will be constructed in the same location as a former tractor path and an existing drainage ditch…A portion of the subject lands and the proposed driveway drains towards Golf Woods Drive.”

A red flag on that build structure came in a Niagara Conservation Authority letter from May 29, 2020  from NPCA’s David Deluce, senior manager, planning & regulations to NEC’s senior planner Jim Avram.

“The current situation is that there is an existing drainage catch basin that was installed in the early 2000s as part of a subdivision known as Grimsby on the Green. The catch basin was intended to convey minor overland flows and capture drainage coming down the escarpment (through the small valley) and convey that drainage,” wrote  Deluce.

“Various erosion control measures where installed at time the subdivision was established, however, those measures are failing, and the Town needs to take corrective action. An additional challenge is that the catch basin is situated partially on private property and the various erosion control measures are entirely on private property.”

To deal with it, it was noted the Town of Grimsby would gain an easement “to construct a new maintenance access laneway for the catch basin and upstream erosion control measures.”

Based on two conditions – that the applicant get any future work approved and a work permit for same, as well as geotechnical support and restoration plans for disturbed areas be established, NPCA also approved.

Both West Lincoln Reg. Coun. Albert Witteveen and Grimsby resident Bruce MacKenzie were contacted for an explanation of the NEC’s stance on the project. Witteveen noted information would come from NEC director Debbie Ramsay.

Nothing was received prior to deadline, however, Witteveen provided some details from an email he had received directly.

The process, as Ramsay noted, was as follows:

“The Commission dealt with the Development Permit for the access driveway from the toe of the escarpment to the bench lands to facilitate development of a large dwelling.

The access traverses the Escarpment Natural Area which permits accessory uses to a dwelling, which is what a driveway is normally considered and is a Permitted Use, subject to the Development Criteria of Part 2 of the NEP being met. The original application was before the Commission in about 2015 or early 2016.

After deferring the application several times to seek additional information, the Commission refused it due to the impact on the Escarpment Natural Area.  It was appealed by the applicant to the Environmental Review Tribunal, where after conducting a hearing the Hearing Officer recommended approval.

Given that the decision differed from that of the Commission, the final approval was given by the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.

The Town of Grimsby submitted an application and received approval for work in the road allowance at the lower part of the driveway to address drainage, erosion and stormwater management issues.

I concur with the observation that this is a significant amount of work in the Escarpment Natural Area but as noted above, the decision to approve it was not made by the Commission.”

Although the NEC rejected the proposal, Niagara Region planning officials gave their blessing. The seal of approval for the work came in a June 1, 2020 letter to the NEC.

After listing several key environmental designations and accreditation on the land, the approval noted regional planning “staff has no objection to the proposed Niagara Escarpment Commission Development Permit to allow for an easement over the laneway in favour of the Town of Grimsby to provide adequate access for existing ditch inlet and upstream creek maintenance” based on several conditions.

“The 2020 Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) considers the subject lands as being within the Prime Agricultural Area, and more specifically a “Specialty Crop Area”. Under the 2019 A Place to Grow: Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (Growth Plan) the property is located within the Greenbelt Plan Area. The 2017 Greenbelt Plan designates the property as within the Niagara Escarpment Plan (NEP) area,” states the Region’s letter.

It also notes, “The subject lands contain and are adjacent to portions of the Region’s Core Natural Heritage System (CNHS), including Environmental Conservation Areas (ECAs) associated with Significant Woodland and the Regionally Significant Life Science Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) known as Grimsby Terrace Valley. The area is also mapped as a Groundwater Protection (Highly Vulnerable Aquifer) area.”

Freake asked to have the project added to the Town’s planning “dashboard” to allow for closer tracking due to the “huge problem” with the flooding. CAO Harry Schlange said the matter would be followed up.

 

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