Last night’s city council meeting turned explosive when it was revealed that the City of Thorold granted permission to a developer to destroy a protected frog pond on the corner of Richmond Street and Decew Road.
As first reported by ThoroldToday, residents are furious that the pond—which was declared protected land years ago—was somehow bulldozed.
Addressing council last night, Sean Dunsmore, the manager of engineering, said a permit was issued to remove some dead trees.
“The work was done under a site alteration permit, issued by the engineering department,” Dunsmore said. “The work that was completed was the removal of some dead trees and there is absolutely an intention for them to put living trees back in the same location. I have drawings here of what the frog pond is going to look like after we’re done.”
According to the drawings, the developer plans to put in a stormwater pond right next to the frog pond. A stormwater pond, which is used to manage runoff water in urban areas, would likely service the newer housing developments nearby.
Responding to Dunsmore’s statement, councillor Carmen DeRose asked if the developer, DG Group, had informed the city of its plans in advance.
“I had actually a couple of people crying to me, they felt so upset because they felt this was being done without the city’s knowledge,” DeRose told council. “I don’t understand how you can destroy a natural frog pond and then create one. I don’t see how that’s possible.”
“We issued a permit for it,” Dunsmore replied. “I agree that it will never be the same but it certainly will be an environmental area that will have the ability for frogs to live in.”
Responding to the bombshell, councillor Victoria Wilson delivered an emotional speech in which she stated that even MPP Jeff Burch reached out to voice his concern.
“Quite frankly, when I came to this meeting I was going to say that we should create financial repercussions for the developer but now it turns out our own city has approved this to happen,” Wilson said. “I’m more upset than I was before because now it’s our fault. Obviously we have some serious issues internally for this to happen. It’s just obscene to me.”
Councillor Anthony Longo agreed.
“We need to find out how this happened and we need to make sure this never happens again,” he said.
Back in the 1990s, Thorold resident Carla Carlson started a group called "Friends of the Richmond Street Forest" to save the frog pond and neighbouring forest from encroaching development. A long legal battle followed and in the end, Carlson convinced the city and developers to sign a memorandum of understanding that the forest and pond never be touched.
In another shocking moment during last night's meeting, councillor Fred Neale revealed that former Thorold mayor Malcolm Woodhouse had reached out to the city’s planning department months ago regarding the protected site.
“He had sent in last October stating his concern about what they were doing around that particular bush,” Neale said. “The planning staff sent back: ‘I’ve had a chance to discuss it with engineering staff. There is a condition in the subdivision agreement that requires the protection of the natural areas you have mentioned. The appropriate and required protection will be put in place.’ ”
That obviously didn’t happen.
After every member denounced the destruction of the pond, council reached a unanimous decision to petition DG Group to reinstate the frog pond and surrounding bush, and to launch an internal review of the environmental permitting process at City Hall.