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Commission denies Jet Boat plan for expanded customer facility

Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours' plans to build a permanent facility at a private dock in Queenston, Ont. were turned down Thursday by the Niagara Escarpment Commission.

The boat tours operator had hoped to build a 3,200-square-foot structure at the dock where customers would be able to change their clothes, use the restroom, buy food and seek shelter during the rain.

Whirlpool, which offers white water boat rides on the lower Niagara River, operates from docks in Lewiston; Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.; and Queenston.

Customers who sign up to take a boat out of the Queenston dock take buses from Niagara Falls, Ont. At the dock, Whirlpool has set up trailers and tents for the customers.

A group Queenston residents had fought plans for a permanent structure, worried that such a building would increase the bus traffic and boat trips on the river.

"This is a quiet, historic village, the type of village where you can walk down the middle of the road with your dog, and there's no traffic," said Jim Armstrong, president of the Queenston Residents' Association.

The buses Whirlpool uses to shuttle in tourists "are very noisy," Armstrong said. "You can hear them from one end of town to the other."

The residents' group was "very pleased" with the commission's ruling.

Two years ago, a similar plan to build a slightly bigger building was approved, but then turned down on appeal.

Thursday's decision does not effect the boats' operation in the water. That is controlled by federal authorities in both Canada and the U.S.

Whirlpool Jet Boat operators could not be reached for comment.

But in April, owner John Kinney said he has faced opposition to his boat operation before. He has fought legal battles to use docks at Niagara-on-the-Lake and expansion efforts in Lewiston, as well as Queenston.

"There will always be people who think that what I do, I should do differently," he said. "I should consult them more or do whatever; or what I should theoretically do to make them more happy with how I run my business," he said in the April 8 article. "But unfortunately, you just can't get caught up in that. Sometimes business is not so warm and fuzzy."