Local Planner Wayne Simpson was before Huntsville’s Planning Committee on March 15 representing the new owners and proponents for the initial phase of development on the former Grandview Resort lands on Highway 60.
He told committee he was asked to speak briefly on the failure of the resort. He said a contributing factor was the lack of connection or linkages between the hotel operator and the existing condominium corporations. He also said another contributing factor may have been the size of the units and that they were not really suitable for business conference groups. “They really needed more of a hotel-type room. The total size of the resort, in terms of the number of rooms, didn’t have the same economies. The buildings were scattered across the site and it’s a horrific job for staff to maintain the buildings. Housekeeping, they required much more staff than a… hotel like the Holiday Inn Express or something like that,” said Simpson.
He said the hotel market in this area is prolific and very competitive, and that the dynamics of the resort changed because many of the condominium owners at Grandview opted out of the rental program, choosing to live in the condos instead.
“The other factor I would identify is the failure over time for the units to be kept to a certain standard,” said Simpson. “When the units were originally built they were all furnished by the developer… so there was uniformity and consistency of what people would expect if you rented a suite one year, came back the next year and you get a different suite, but you would expect the same sort of experience.” Simpson said as time went by there was no system or mechanism in place to replace furniture, fixtures or equipment automatically so it became “quite a hodgepodge of things.”
In follow-up conversation with Claude Doughty, one of the new owners of the property, he said the three buildings being proposed would be connected by underground parking. They would be residential in nature with the condominium owners having the ability to rent their condos for a period not shorter than a month.
“They just can’t rent them out for the weekend,” he said. “There are a number of condominiums out there that can be rented out every weekend to a different user. Our project is not the same as that one, we’re gearing it out to people that want to have their neighbours (be) more consistent. They don’t want to have a residence sort of in a hotel where next door to them every week there’s somebody new and different. Of course that does create other potential problems,” he said, adding that part of the market is being well served with developments such as those undertaken by Deerhurst Resort.
“It’s very cost prohibitive now to have your own place on one of the lakes in this area so this gives you a lot of the advantages of lakefront living without all of the work that comes with owning your own property,” said Doughty.
The 33 units contained in the three buildings being proposed would range in size from one bedroom plus a loft to four bedrooms. The most notable exemption being sought by the developer pertains to one of the three buildings’ height from the permitted three storeys to 15 metres or four storeys. The planning committee deferred the decision at its March 15 meeting while staff takes another look at the zoning bylaw for the lands and committee members conduct a site visit.
“I call it a depth variation not a height variation,” said Doughty. “We’re allowed to build three storeys but to get the underground parking we need this excavation down and that’s what creates a higher face on that one building,” he said. “We’re going to back-fill and landscape and plant trees across that building front so it won’t look any taller than three storeys from anywhere.”
Concerns about the vista of existing Hilltop condominium owners are being addressed, according to Doughty. “We’ve gone through extreme costs to preserve their vistas and views as much as absolutely possible. Not that we have to do that, I mean you don’t own the view. If you’re sitting in a new condo in downtown Toronto and you can see Lake Ontario and two years later somebody builds a new building right in front of you and you lose your view, that’s life. Unfortunately, if you don’t own up to the waterfront that can happen,” he said, adding that his party has gone to great lengths to mitigate the impact on the existing residents’ views and their proposed development is a great improvement to what ClubLink was proposing.
The golf course is expected to remain as an amenity for at least the next five years, which is the term of the agreement the new developers have signed with ClubLink for its maintenance thus far, according to Doughty who also said he welcomes a site visit by Huntsville’s Planning Committee.
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