70-unit resort hotel proposed for Norfolk’s Front Road

Share Adjust Comment Print

Objections have been raised to another attempt to share the idyllic shoreline between Port Ryerse and Fisher’s Glen with the rest of Ontario.

The applicant this time is developer Blair McKeil, sponsor of two ambitious but controversial developments on the docket at Norfolk council.

In this instance, McKeil would like to establish a 70-unit, 85,000-square-foot resort hotel on 50 acres on Front Road, immediately south of the Canadian Raptor Conservancy. The retreat McKeil has in mind is modelled after Langdon Hall, a high-end conference centre and retreat in Cambridge.

The proposal has attracted more than 50 signatures on a petition in opposition. Nearby residents have a number of concerns, an increase in traffic primary among them. The application includes parking for 158 vehicles.

Norfolk planning staff agree that traffic could be a problem.

“The key concerns raised include change of agricultural land with potential impact on the environment and ecosystem, noticeable reduction in wildlife — including decline in the deer population, bird and other animals — and insufficient traffic capacity on Front Road to accommodate resort activity,” Norfolk senior planner Mohammad Alam said in a report.

“One of the major concerns would be the drastic increase in traffic that this resort will create along Front Road and through the villages of Port Ryerse and Fisher’s Glen.

“Currently, the road quality is relatively poor and there are virtually no shoulders. Cyclists and pedestrians are already at risk using this road, and the increase in traffic will increase the safety risk to these cyclists and pedestrians.”

The application received a preliminary review at the Oct. 6 meeting of Norfolk’s public hearing committee.

The purpose of the review is to give everyone an opportunity to share their thoughts, after which the developer is expected to huddle with planning staff and consider adjustments that accommodate the concerns of relevant stakeholders.

McKeil is also the sponsor of a proposal to bring 375 waterfront condominiums to the former Gamble Shipyard in Port Dover. The scale and density of this proposal has also attracted the attention of neighbouring property owners.

At the meeting, Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus suggested that McKeil’s proposal for Front Road would be more appropriate to the shipyard property. Columbus and Vittoria Coun. Chris VanPaassen suggested the resort represents a disruption to the neighbourhood that would be more appropriate in an urban setting.

“I don’t see this as compatible with the neighbourhood whatsoever,” Columbus said.

The parcel at issue used to be farmland. It has since been converted into a pine plantation. The developer is confident the forest buffer will minimize disruptions to neighbouring properties.

“There is a need, and I know no one likes change,” McKeil told council. “It seems the greatest concern is traffic. If I thought I was doing anything really wrong, I wouldn’t do it.”

Alam’s report says there are five livestock operations, three hobby farms, two retired farm operations, and a specialty crop operation in the immediate area. Long-time resident of Front Road Phil Forbes, who lives next to the parcel in question, worries the development might spoil the bucolic nature of this location.

“I’m not opposed to change,” Forbes said. “I agree with change. But I believe (this) should be within the urban boundary to stop urban sprawl. We see enough of that, for sure. We’re just basically destroying the Green Belt.”

Council received the discussion as information. Before doing so, Mayor Kristal Chopp expressed hope that council and the community will keep an open mind, saying McKeil’s proposal is a potential asset to Norfolk County.

“It could be a great opportunity,” the mayor said.