This vacant lot on Memorial Drive in Fenwick has been the site of illegal dumping and environmental damage for years, according to resident living on Mansfield Drive, whose home abuts the lot. DON RICKERS

Peeved resident says various authorities turning blind eye; not so, says Pelham Bylaw

A woman living on Mansfield Drive in Fenwick is accusing the Town of Pelham of failing to enforce its bylaws related to illegal dumping and protection of a Carolinian forest ravine, located on Memorial Drive between Maple and Balfour.

“The Town of Pelham is not protecting the endangered cucumber tree, as mandated by Ministry of Natural Resources and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority,” said Donna Boksa. “This forest is overrun with non-native vines, and people who have homes backing onto the ravine are cutting trees and dumping brush, soil, and gravel.”

Boksa said that the Town promised to put up fencing to protect the cucumber tree, but has not done so. She added that illegal dumping has continued over the years, which has blocked off the water flow into the ravine, and damaged native plant growth.

“There is no longer any springwater running through the site, and the fish that Pelham was mandated to protect are no longer there because of this,” she said.

Boksa asserts that one homeowner on Mansfield Drive has put in a retaining wall along their property edge, and has an existing concrete-based gazebo, which are both bylaw infractions.

“They don’t have the 7.5 metre setback as indicated in the bylaw,” said Boksa. “Documentation from Parks Canada was given to the Town, and anyone who purchased a lot along the ravine, stating these restrictions. Why is the Town not enforcing them?”

When she reported these issues to Public Works, Boksa said was told, “Yes, people are breaking the bylaws, but it is not in the best interest of the Town to pursue the infractions.”

Boksa said that a presentation by environmental experts was made to a previous Pelham council dealing with environmental issues in the area, including the protection of the ravine’s Brook Trout and endangered cucumber trees, that was ignored. She asserts that the MNR and NPCA both cited regulations and restrictions to be addressed at the site, but the Town did not follow through, and continued to ignore the past and present infractions.

Pelham Fire Chief Bob Lymburner, who oversees bylaw enforcement in the municipality, said that the property has an easement that cuts into the local Carolinian forest.

He levelled it off with clean fill, and hasn’t put anything in here in a couple of years

“Some neighbours raised concerns about the lot owner a couple years ago, and made accusations that he was encroaching onto Town property and killing trees,” said Lymburner. “We met with him and said, ‘That’s it. You can’t dump anything more, because you’re coming to the edge of Town property, and there are a lot of vulnerable and protected trees in here.’ He said, ‘Okay, no problem.’ And if you look at the weed growth, there’s nothing fresh. He levelled it off with clean fill, and hasn’t put anything in here in a couple of years.”

Pelham now has a fill bylaw, said Lymburner.

“The bylaw prevents anyone from bringing fill into town unless it’s clean, and we have we know where it’s coming from,” he said. “We don’t allow people to just start filling in land without us knowing about it.”

Lymburner added that there was never a continuously running creek through the lot.

Barb Wiens, Pelham’s Director of Planning and Development, told the Voice that “those rear yards [on Mansfield] do have environmental zoning, and residents are not supposed to be placing any buildings or structures in that area. Based on the aerial photography that I have from 2018, there does not appear to be any evidence of encroachment. From what I can see on Memorial Drive, there had been some filling a few years ago, but there doesn’t appear to be any current filling. The vacant property to the east of the Town property on Memorial doesn’t have the environmental zoning or protection on it. It’s just a building lot.”

Boksa told the Voice that she is moving from Mansfield Drive.

“I am too tired to keep fighting this, since no one on the council or the bylaw officers seem to care about the environmental impact of not following the mandated bylaws. It only takes political will and human decency to step up and do what is right, and do what the Town is legally responsible for. Why is this so difficult?”