NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. — A 30-unit apartment complex has been given the green light to be built on the site of one of the bloodiest battles fought on Canadian soil.
After years of deliberation over what to do with the site of the Battle of Lundy's Lane in Niagara Falls, Ont., the Ontario Municipal Board has OK'd the city's plan to convert the former school property into apartments, a parking lot and a commemorative park.
The Battle of Lundy's Lane was the War of 1812’s bloodiest battle. More than 1,600 soldiers were killed when British soldiers, along with the Canadian militia and aboriginal allies, took a stand to stop the American army's advance into Upper Canada.
The nearby Drummond Hill Cemetery is the final resting place of many of those soldiers as well as war hero Laura Secord.
"We're disappointed in the result," said Tom Richardson, the lawyer who represented the Friends of the Lundy's Lane Battlefield, a group that wanted the city to save the entire property for a commemorative park.
While the city's plan still needs to jump a few administrative hurdles, and an archeological assessment, most of the battlefield appears ready to be paved over.
City council rezoned the four-acre site to allow for the project that includes an elementary school that closed in 2011. The city bought that property for $900,000.
"The battlefield actually extends much further than the school yard," said Richardson. "The American army came right through where the school is. The parking area to the east was all part of the flanking movement of the American army.
"That will be lost."
The plan still includes two acres to remain for use as a commemorative park. The city plans to ask to have that remaining area designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.
The majority of councillors felt it was a fair compromise.
"It wasn't all that everybody wanted to get, but it serves many purposes," said Mayor Jim Diodati.
"We are preserving much of the battlefield, we're helping to create affordable housing for seniors and we're enhancing and creating an interpretative battlefield tour."
Diodati said it's important to note a lot of homes in the area have been built around the battlefield, so the project is not precedent-setting.
"We've captured the essence of where the action took place and where a lot of the soldiers are resting and we'll have an interpretative pathway and signs.”
The property is currently recognized as a national historic site by the federal government.
That designation does not protect it from development, but qualifies the area for federal grants.
Designating the portion to be developed into a park under the Ontario Heritage Act could protect the area from future commercial development.