Proposed hotel development raises many questions with Planning Advisory Committee

At the Planning Advisory Committee meeting on Monday, November 15th, an application was made for a hotel development that would also include a restaurant and retail store(s) at the south end of Port Elgin (south of Mable’s on Hwy. 21).

                                                Hotel entrance faces north

Some months ago, Saugeen Shores identified certain areas of Port Elgin where up to a 20 metre tall building would be appropriate and this has been determined as one of those areas.

According to the proposed developer’s planner, Ron Davidson, the owners are not asking for relief from the height restrictions but are asking that zoning be designated as C3 (highway commercial) which would permit a hotel.

“The one question of concern is the open space (landscaping) requirement of 30 per cent and, in my opinion on a highway commercial property, it seems to be excessive,” said Davidson.  “Saugeen Shores is the only municipality in Bruce County that has an open space requirement in the form of a percentage.  All other municipalities require planting strips along lot lines.  Making sure that landscaping is aesthetically pleasing is very important this is an excessive amount.  If you’re asking for 30 per cent of the property to be landscaped, that’s 3/4 of an acre that has to be planted with shrubs and grass and that’s a lot. Highway commercial land in Port Elgin and Southampton is rare and is also expensive.  You can still end up with an attractive development with a lesser landscaped space.”

The developer, Kingslake Projects, is asking that the open space/landscaping be reduced to 15 per cent.

The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is also requesting that a left-turn lane must be installed to enter the property when heading south on Hwy. 21.  Davidson said that engineered drawings for the turning lane will be prepared to the satisfaction of the Ministry.

With the question of height regarding proximity to the airport, according to the County Planner Barbara Mugabe, it is required that the maximum height of a building within 500 to 1,000 metres of the airport be restricted to 20 metres therefore, the development, that is 700 metres from the airport, complies with the requirement.

Resident Mary Thornley, who currently lives behind the proposed development property, presented her objections to the development, saying that her family had farmed outside of Port Elgin for generations, supported the community, shopped locally and participated in community events.  “Eighteen years ago, my husband and I returned to Port Elgin to raise our family in the community.  While our community has seen growth due to Bruce Power and the allure of being a beach town, we cannot allow commercial investment or adjusting height by-laws to attract more development and take away from our small-town appeal.  The change in the height by-law approved in June conveniently now allows six story buildings to be built along Hwy. 21 and that will forever change the landscape.  I question if this by-law applies to hotel development or affordable housing development.”

“We are not here to stop development in the town,” added Thornley, “as we understand it’s going to happen.  However, our recommendation is to reduce the height of the proposed hotel to four stories, that is consistent with the new Holiday Inn hotel, or move it to another location.  My opposition to the hotel is literally – ‘not in my backyard’.  The proposed six-story building would be 46 feet from our property line and the hotel’s parking spaces only nine feet from our backyard. The proposed height of 67 feet would be 42 feet higher than our existing 25 foot cedar hedge.  The shadows from the building will certainly cover our property.  As a result of the proposed development, our family is now looking at relocating to another municipality and this caused anxiety and stress on all our family members.  Now, we are at a significant disadvantage give the reduction in our home value that will have a hotel in the backyard and rocketing home prices elsewhere.  We will move to another community – along with our tax dollars.”

Thornley said what’s best for the town’s budget is not always best for residents.  She asked Council who they were there to serve … “residents or developers”.

Councilor Cheryl Grace raised the point that there should be low-impact lighting to reduce the impact to abutting properties and, if once at the site control stage, it be looked at including signage lighting, by staff.

Grace said that, according to the planner Ron Davidson, the landscaping at 30 per cent seemed “excessive and that outdoor spaces were not intended to include outdoor play areas at car washes, equipment rental establishments and gas bars”.  “I would suggest,” said Grace,  “that a hotel with 90 units in a prime vacation area is quite different than the needs needed by a gas bar, car wash or equipment rental store.”

Vice Deputy Mayor Mike Myatt questioned the 15 metres of storage that, according to plans are warranted.  Town Engineer Amanda Froese said that the storage had been determined by the developer and planner, Ron Davidson said that more engineered drawings were being completed and that, “when dealing with the MTO there is no choice … if we need an entrance permit you have to play by their rules”.

Myatt pointed out that the development is at the gateway into Port Elgin and had several questions of the planner. “What was the reason for running the building East to West as opposed to North-South? What is the reason for those coming into town from the south will be looking at the back of the building instead of the entrance?  Why is the entrance on the north side and not the south side?  I just can’t understand why drivers coming into town are looking at the back of a building instead of the entrance.  I don’t get it.”

For larger view, Click on Image

Davidson admitted it was a good question.  “It seems as though the it will be a rather attractive building facade as drawn by the architect but I did not realize that would be a concern … but I will get an answer for that.”

Myatt also said that he struggles with the reduction of the 30 per cent landscaping to 15 per cent. “I hope the developer takes that into consideration. Holiday Inn Express wanted to go down to 20 per cent and collaborated to come up to 28 per cent. This is a perfect opportunity to showcase a property coming into Port Elgin with an enhanced plan and I don’t agree with the 15.1 per cent. You said we are the only municipality in Bruce County in terms of landscaping and that’s fine with me.  Maybe we can’t get to the 30 per cent but I would like to see something come back not at 15.1 per cent.”  He also questioned the modelling for shadowing of the building onto the resident’s property.

Councillor Dave Myette also questioned the solar modelling.  “Why pick the solstice of December 21st at 6:30 p.m. “… when at that time there are no shadows as it’s dark at 4:30 p.m.  With regards to the traffic and MTO, there has been a round-about proposed at Concession 6 and Hwy. 21 and that may have an impact on traffic flow and, with the reduced speed of 60kmh, there is an opportunity for cars to slow and merge.  Regarding the landscaping proposed, I personally can live with a reduced landscape, given that the property is surrounded on the south side and across the highway by a former golf course with vegetation, perhaps to the low 20 per cent.”

Myette also pointed out that when the town implemented the height restriction he was under the impression it was for housing and not envisioned to be for hotel space. “The full 20 meter height is something the developer should look at it again and maybe a four-story would be more appropriate in this location given its proximity to residential space, the motel-restaurant next door and the airport prime location.”

Davidson countered with, that when the by-law restricting height was passed, it did not specifically refer to residential buildings only.

Councillor John Divinski raised another concern around Bruce County weather conditions.  “This is going to be a 12-month occupancy hotel and you can’t get at it when the highway is closed. If there is to be no entrance by way of Guyers Drive, has this been considered by the developer? It is obviously something that needs to be considered by the owners.  I agree with Councillor Myette but, if this goes ahead, the winter driving and access will have to be addressed.”

Deputy Mayor and Committee Chair, Don Matheson, asked if any consideration had been given regarding extension sidewalks from the hotel to the proposed Lamont Sports Park and shopping facilities. Engineer Froese explained that it would involve approval by MTO.  Matheson also said that with the proximity to the Rail Trail it would be advantageous to have storage for cyclists given that the community is moving toward a cycling destination and Davidson said he would discuss it with the owner(s).

The planning advisor report will be brought forward with recommendations in the near future.