Merritton Development Update #9

Big plans remain for Lybster Mill site in Merritton 12

By Doug Herod, The Standard

Forever etched in my memory is standing in the middle of the old vacant Domtar factory in the spring of 2004 and listening to new owner Donatelli talk of his desire to eventually transform a section of the sprawling plant into an upscale inn. To which I thought: “Huh???”
Should have known better than to doubt the developer who a few years earlier had transformed a dilapidated old industrial structure on Glendale Ave. into what would become The Keg building.
So I’m prepared to give the proprietor of the Stone Mill Inn the benefit of the doubt for a project that some might term grandiose.

Here’s the sketch:
There’s an underground, 35-vehicle parking garage left over from Domtar days that is adjacent to the north side of the Lybster Mill building. It’s an 11,000-square-foot footprint, said Donatelli, that his engineers tell him can support an eight-storey building.
One floor could accommodate 10 units averaging 1,000 square feet, which would translate into a total of 80 units.
The location is a good fit for a major residential complex, he noted, because of the neighbouring commercial establishments that are within easy walking distance.

“We’re not talking Port Dalhousie multi-million-dollar per unit. We’re talking $250,000 to $350,000 per unit. It’s what works in the community, it’s what’s affordable,” he said.

Let’s be clear here. This project isn’t happening next week. There are a number of hurdles.
First of all, CN still owns the land behind the Lybster Mill where once a spur line ran atop a berm on the property.

That land is needed to provide all the parking required for the condo development.
Donatelli said he’s not concerned about reaching an agreement with CN for the 3.5-acre strip of land from the main CN line (near Elm St.) to Glendale Ave. More problematic is dealing with he what says is the million tons of stone in the doomed berm.
He said he needs to find buyers for the stone in order for the property’s purchase price to make sense.

As for any city planning issues, Donatelli doesn’t foresee difficulties.
“The height restriction is four storeys, but they’re happy to see me go eight,” he said of the city.

Judy Pihach, St. Catharines’ manager of planning services, said nothing has been formally submitted, making it difficult to comment on how the proposal might be ultimately received by city planners.
However, given its location near major roads and commercial activity, Pihach said she’s “cautiously optimistic” the development would be in line with the city’s residential growth plans.

If it does eventually fly, the development may not be Donatelli’s.
“I need a break. I don’t know whether I’m going to just plan it and let somebody else do it. Nine-and-a-half years of making this work is exhausting.”

Tragedy of the Commons

It is not often that something stirs emotion in me similar to those emotions felt when a close family member or friend passes away. I definitely know this is going to sound foolish but I admit that I felt those emotions today and they were not related to the death of someone close to me. In fact, they were related to the sight I witnessed as I was driving home from Christmas shopping for my wife and two young daughters, Morgan and Gracie.  As I approached a place in the heart of Merritton and a place that for the majority of the past three decades (since 1983) I had called home, my eyes betrayed me with the above image and my heart dropped in my chest. At the corner of Merritt Street and Maple Crest, across from where I live, workers were just finishing cutting down a blackberry tree that had been there for longer than me or anyone else I know in the area.

Memories than flooded my mind. I was transported back to my childhood in the late 1980s and early1990s. First, I saw pictures of myself  7 or 8 years old, riding my first bike back from the abandoned car wash that now houses JLS Auto, while eating berries from the tree, and then using my bike's tires to smash the blackberries from that tree all over the sidewalk -leaving a streak of 10 to 15 feet. Then images flashed before my eyes of me, years later as a 12 or 13 year old. Only now, I could see myself walking past the tree getting frustrated as the berries stuck to the bottom of my shoes. The last memories of the tree, and perhaps the saddest one and the reason why I am writing this post, is the memories I had at the tree last year. My neighbour and I, took my daughter Morgan and his son Cole, to the tree to pick some of the berries to eat. The tree has always been extremely healthy and the abundances of berries were sufficient for anyone who wanted them in the neighbourhood. Our kids loved the berries and the fact that they could pick them. This is why I am not happy that the trees was cut down.

Besides occasionally writing posts concerning Merritton, I also serve as Co-Chair of the St.Catharines Green Committee -appointed to a 4 year term by St.Catharines City Council. The mandate of the committee is to beautify, restore, and green the city. We have undertaken and partnered on these types of projects, included the planting of thousands of trees, with organization like the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and Climate Action Niagara. I do feel that every tree is important. I also understand that the owner of the property has a right to cut the tree down considering its location was on his private property. To reiterate, it is just a tragedy of the commons. I just always thought of them as my commons and never thought they would be my daughter's. Now they are and that's the tragedy.

David Haywood

Since the majority of trees are located on private property, should St.Catharines City Council have more control on when, why, and how trees are cut down in the city? Email your thoughts to