Horse resort will fill niche in Norfolk

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The coast appears clear for the establishment of a horse ranch-resort-event centre on the lakeshore near Port Rowan.

The proposal from Long Point entrepreneur Jeff Bouck and son Robb sailed through a preliminary hearing at Norfolk council on May 4.

So far, no one in the neighbourhood has objected. The only sticking point involves 23 tourist cabins and how they will be defined within the context of the agricultural zone.

“Awesome,” said Jeff Bouck at the end of council’s deliberation. “This is exciting. Man – I’m jacked.”

Bouck told council the inspiration for his concept comes from similar equestrian retreats in Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. At the core of his business plan is the provision of a resort for people who like to take their horses with them on vacation.

“A lot more people travel with horses than you think,” Bouck said. “It’s not NASCAR, but it’s still a pretty cool thing.”

The Bouck family has already established a ranch-type facility at their 59-acre property at 436 Front Road.

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The farm is located on the S-bend between Booth’s Harbour and Port Rowan. Along with 23 cabins, the Boucks intend to provide stables, a riding arena, a wedding and conference centre, and a restaurant with a “saloon” theme.

“This development proposal is quite unique and interesting,” said Tricia Givens, Norfolk’s director of planning. “The key to this is the subject lands are within ‘the lakeshore special policy area,’ which does provide opportunities for additional uses on land designated agriculture which are related to the unique tourism land uses proposed here.”

The only hurdle to overcome at this point involves a Ministry of Municipal Affairs objection to the idea of a subdivided condominium corporation in the agricultural zone.

Norfolk planning staff agrees, saying provincial policy does not encourage the subdivision of farms into individual lots. Staff adds that workarounds are available. An option is keeping the farm as one legal parcel while selling ownership of the individual cabins.

“This is an equestrian resort for families, couples and corporate groups,” Eldon Darbyson, director of planning with G. Douglas Vallee Ltd. of Simcoe and agent for the applicants, told the committee.

“It’s a vacation resort for people who wish to live and vacation with their horses. The ranch is designed for people who love horses. This resort concept currently does not exist in Norfolk and it must be located in the agricultural area.”

As for the way forward, Vittoria Coun. Chris VanPaassen, chair of the May 4 meeting, said county staff and the Boucks’ representatives will hash out a solution to the province’s concerns. Once that is done, VanPaassen says the way appears clear for final approval.

The Boucks are ready to get going.

“We’re pretty passionate about horses and we see this as a good fit for the lakeshore,” Jeff Bouck said.

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