Deerhurst Resort struggling to find housing for staff, says GM



The sale of the Waterloo building to De Novo has exacerbated staff housing shortages at Deerhurst Resort. As a result, the resort is looking for a zoning amendment to temporarily use trailers to accommodate staff.

Their proposal was before Huntsville’s Development Services Committee on January 16, for information only.

The resort is hoping to temporarily alleviate its housing shortage with the addition of four dormitory trailers, which would contain up to 49 individual bedrooms and shared washroom facilities, Deerhurst General Manager Jesse Hamilton told committee. Other amenities proposed would include a separate kitchen trailer and parking area. Committee also heard that the trailers would be on water and sewer services.

“This is the first year in a number of years that we have existed without the Waterloo building helping us with our staff housing issues and we have been working on a solution that looks like this one for a year and a half now. It became very obvious in the past year, 2018, just how problematic our lack of staff housing is so that’s why we’re hoping to move forward with this as quickly as we can,” said Hamilton, adding that he’s hoping to have the trailers in place by mid-May. “This is really just sort of scratching at the surface of our staff housing needs, this will bring us back to where we were when we did have access to the Waterloo building.”

A zoning amendment would have to be approved in order to recognize the temporary use of the trailers. If approved, the zoning amendment would lapse in three years. At that point the applicant could seek an extension for another three years, according to the Town’s Manager of Planning, Kirstin Maxwell.

If approved, the zoning amendment would be applied to an area of approximately 3.7 hectares (9.1 acres), which currently contains five townhouses and 44 beds for staff. The area has direct access to Hwy 60 and, according Maxwell, is adequately buffered from neighbouring residential development by a portion of the Deerhurst Highlands golf course and the steep slopes to the east.

Maxwell told committee that comments had been received from the District and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO). “Although a temporary use bylaw is proposed, both the District of Muskoka and MTO have advised that additional information should be submitted prior to the passage of the bylaw. In this regard, MTO has requested that a traffic impact brief be submitted to their satisfaction, and that any required upgrades to the access off Hwy 60 be constructed at the cost of the developer. The District of Muskoka has advised that a functional servicing report, hydraulic modelling and an agreement with the District concerning the provision of municipal services, capacity allocation and solid waste management should be completed,” she stated.

Maxwell said staff would be working with the applicant and the two agencies to ensure everyone is satisfied.

Committee chair Nancy Alcock asked Hamilton if thought had been given to a more permanent solution.

Hamilton said the focus has been on getting housing in place as quickly as possible. “I do think the land that we would like to put these trailers on right now does suit the needs for future growth for us in terms of its location, proximity to the resort. So I do believe that future plans will consider putting permanent housing in that area at some point. That would be one of the sort of most effective solutions for us into the future.”

Councillor Jason FitzGerald asked Hamilton how the resort is letting people know that it is looking for housing for its staff. Hamilton said originally the resort would connect employees with someone who advertised space for rent. It has since started connecting with homeowners directly. “And we will rent homes from them. We absorb all the risk of them having staff live in their homes and so if there’s anything that goes wrong with the house it becomes Deerhurst’s responsibility, we’re the one signing the lease, et cetera. That makes it a little bit easier for the homeowner to have faith in that sort of agreement, because obviously you can understand the concern that people have with relative transient people staying there, so it’s mostly been done though our HR department, they reach out when they see postings from people who are looking to rent their houses.”

Hamilton said he believes the resort has exhausted practically every other avenue and said the idea of using trailers has been on the books for some time.

“There will be times of the year where all 49 beds will not be in use, but we will make a point of informing other businesses that have the same challenges as we have, but perhaps in alternative seasons,” said Hamilton. “We will make these beds available to them as well.”

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  1. My first concern would be the view from Hwy. 60 (which I believe is to become a District Road in the future; as far as the Hidden Valley entrance road). There is a berm for a short distance, and the highway is at a slightly higher elevation, but there is insufficient coniferous screening for a large portion. An apparently permanent trailer park is the last vista which we should present to tourists or potential tourists.
    My only other concern is the 3 + 3-year lease. It should possibly be limited to 3 years, and the proponent should be required to present at least a concept plan for accommodation beyond the 3-year horizon.

  2. Katherine Rethy on

    I agree with Mr. Millman. A trailer park is neither the view we should be presenting to the tourists and visitors to our region, for whom travel along Hwy 60 is virtually guaranteed, nor is it the view and feel I want to experience so close to my home. There is a reason that Deerhurst is not proposing to locate their trailer park within sight of their resort – these things are unsightly and change the character of an area. They should present a proposal to locate it on land that is not visible from major thoroughfares – don’t they have land north of hwy 60 where the Treetop Trekking attraction is and in and around the old landing strip? What about in there?

    I also agree with Mr. Millman that a commitment to create permanent housing should be part of Deerhurst’s proposal and any approvals should be contingent on a long term commitment.

  3. Deerhurst seems to be looking tired these days. Good time to reconsider refurbishing the existing site and upgrading the facilities to include doors rooms for the staff that will be required in the future.

    Great idea for Deerhurst to sign some leases with guarantees attached for homeowners in Huntsville to allow folks to earn funds if they have extra rooms available.

    • Or some of the land that surrounds the golf course? Oh yea, those are worth money to Skyline and can be seen by the resort guests. Am quite sure there are huge tracts of land readily available for trailer parks closer to the hotel.

  4. Well, I guess this can be viewed as a measure of “success”. We have marketed our area as an “upscale destination” very well. This has created high real estate values. This is seen as desirable by the marketing and political types as it increases the value (and tax revenue) of the area. In an effort to maintain this situation the planning and zoning rules dictate that new construction will not be cheap.
    Values are now so high that the lower tier working person cannot afford to stay in the area, at least not in the buildings that the zoning will permit at the moment.
    Since there is no significant public transit and these same people may not own cars we have this situation where the service industry needs, and wants staff who work at the lower end of the pay envelope and they are just not to be found.
    Is there really anything inherently wrong with a trailer park, in the right place and carefully laid out and maintained?
    I think that many years ago the Anglo Canadian Leather tannery had some relatively cheap apartments in town for their staff.
    I know that several area saw mills in the past had cheap, nearly on site accommodation for their workers in the past too.
    So why the big fuss if Deerhurst needs a few trailers? Do they not already have an apartment building in that area, one of two originally, that they use for staff. It seems a good place to put more.
    I am not sure that the “beauty” of highway 60 is so great that this group of trailers in the bush would detract significantly, especially if color and screening was handled well.
    Maybe, in the long term plans for Deerhurst they can add staff apartments, tucked into the less desirable areas of the new development, the spots without a good view for example. It might be nice to have some staff actually living on site, walking to work and interacting with the guests on a daily basis. they could do more for the resort by living there than just dropping in for their work shift and then leaving again.
    It is just a thought as this kind of set up works in some areas, U. S. National parks for example.

  5. There is a seasonal/summer job in the Huntsville area for every reliable honest HHS student who wants one. By reliable I mean show up on time every shift and try your best. The problem is only 14% of High school kids work; in 1985 40% of high school kids worked. Towns like Huntsville have no choice but to bring in seasonal workers to fill these job opportunities.

    • Craig Nakamoto on

      Britt, I find this statistic very disturbing. Can you tell us where you found the 14% number? I think it is a huge disservice that parents do not require their children to either volunteer or work during summers while in high school. I am surprised that more kids don’t want to work because, as you say, there is no shortage of jobs.

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