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Disappointed council deferred winery’s zoning request

Over the years, I have watched County Council vote on many issues. The vote by nine councillors to defer Hillier Creek Winery’s request to alter its zoning to enable it to host weddings and special events in their reconstructed barn was very perplexing to me.

When the application went before a committee of council last week, former councillor Peggy Burris, some neighbours and the local Federation of Agriculture urged council to turn it down. Peggy Burris asked how long before natural farming is impacted by Hiller Creek Estates.

The fact I found extremely troubling in that 100 minute meeting was that not one councillor asked Hillier Creek Estates owner Kemp Stewart one question about the number of jobs (20) that HCW had created or made mention of the winery’s contribution to the tax base and the community. Not one.

The nine councillors chose to defer the request even though Hillier Creek Estate’s application meets all the planning tests – provincial policy statements and the County’s official plan. In the four years that the winery has operated there has not been one complaint to the municipality. If council does reject the application they will most likely be subjected to a very expensive appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board.

By deferring the application, council has temporarily put an immediate stop to any future events in the barn at HCE. This has to be extremely disappointing to anyone who has planned special events such as weddings and anniversaries. Amber and Kemp Stewart have also offered their winery as a venue for the Grapes of Wrath extreme endurance event taking place in September. This event is in support of the Canadian Cancer Society, Trenton and PECMH Foundations to purchase much needed medical equipment. I suspect that the event will have to be cancelled or held elsewhere even though 120 participants have already registered. Recently HCW hosted a fundraising dinner for Wounded Warriors Canada – helping to raise $35,000 for Canada’s ex military servicemen and women.

Some of you may not be aware but one of the owners of the winery is local physcian Dr. Amber Hayward Stewart. She took over Dr. Ken Eccles practice about three years ago and when Drs. Forester and Lett left the County due to the many service cuts by QHC at PECM hospital last summer, Amber absorbed 800 patients into her already busy practice.
She also works many shifts in Picton and Trenton hospital emergency departments and is head of emergency in Trenton. We are fortunate to have such a competent and experienced emergency room physician. She has a great rapport with staff and she and her husband Kemp are generous in hosting hospital staff functions. I wish County council had been half as vocal as Amber in challenging Quinte Healthcare with respect to the numerous service and bed cuts that took place at our local hospital.

I write about the Hillier Creek Winery application deferrel and Amber’s role in the County’s medical community in the same letter to make a point that Amber and Kemp Stewart have given back to this community in spades and the County Council did not even have the courtesy to address the fact that they had created 20 much needed jobs in this County with more to come if the application had been approved. I believe that this is a community that helps each other.

Fran Renoy


Filed Under: Letters and OpinionNews from Everywhere Else

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  1. sanmc says:

    There are issues of classification to Hillier Creek Estates Winery. As printed in the letters section of Gazette/Times (Jun 12.2014) by Pres. Fed. of Ag.

    “Identify winery operations that are considered agricultural in nature and those that are considered commercial” J.Thomspon

    This means: Agricultural Wineries or Estate Wineries by definition.

    “Further, the winery policy requires that estate wineries shall be required to locate with direct access and frontage onto an improved public roadway maintained year round with sufficient capacity to accommodate the anticipated traffic”

    QUOTED from Times Article (May 30.14)
    “But it isn’t just council and his neighbours tossing hurdles into Hillier Creek Estates’ plans.

    County planning staff are satisfied that Hillier Creek Estates proposal meets each of its regulatory tests, BUT the COUNTY’S COMMISSIONER OF PLANNING, ENGINEERING AND WORKS Robert McAuley has proposed several new conditions to council’s approval of the zoning change. Included among them is major expansion of Stapleton Road—currently a quarter-mile-long gravel lane, the winery shares with a couple of neighbours. Specifically he wants the winery to widen the road and pave it with a hard surface.

    The estimated cost of the prescribed roadwork is about $30,000. The land and the money for the roadwork would all come from the winery.

    Hillier Creek Estates says it will concede the land to the municipality, but refuses to rebuild and pave a County-owned road.

    But as it turns out, neither the neighbours nor Stewart want Stapleton Road widened or paved.”

    for full info (

    Kerfuffles never cease.

  2. Mark says:

    Council has no appetite for an OMB hearing whatsoever unless they are on a sound footing.

  3. Wolf Braun says:

    Paul: “I will ask you this Wolfe why would a business schedule events before proper zoning was in place ?”

    The answer starts with the original building application and permits. The planning dept approved the plans. Renovations to the barn began. A house was built. Time passed. The winery opened. Then for whatever reason planning decided that they hadn’t approved the original plan. Happens all the time with this planning dept.. The OMB stands in the corner of the winery. Council blinked because of a potential OMB appeal.

  4. sanmc says:

    “The nine councillors chose to defer the request …”

    I dare to repeat what I’ve said and evidenced with statements made in the press before that the administration in Shire Hall has much to say about what gets deferred or not. They have power, they do the research investigation; they know the official and secondary plans; they communicate with and do what the OMB says to do and to do else, or else.

    My guess: this approval is may be trying to adjust the plan in some way which takes more than dotting i’s crossing t’s in the overall picture. Someone needs to find out for sure why it is deferred or read the minutes of the council meeting.

    To go on about it is bad mouthing on a whim which is not good for county spirit and neighborly relations, nor for the good and wealthy doctor.

    This idea goes to back up the issue that a former council Ms. Burris would have full knowledge of the process of what can be changed instantly and what has to go through a process of bigger change to what has been set down in a plan previously. She is exercising her wits and knowledge for some reason ? that we can only guess at.

    Follow the money.

  5. Art says:

    Paul is right on:
    Sounds to me like Hillier Creek Estates has spent a lot of money up front under the assumption that they would be permitted to continue growing the winery.
    They already been hosting weddings and parties for at least three years.

  6. Art says:

    Are you sure you don’t have your wires crossed about “natural farming”? I think perhaps the rest of the context of the statement should be included. Natural farming occurrences these include ” smells” that come from farms and include manure. If you live near a farm these are ” natural smells” for sure!!! Take the whole context as it was intended. Not just one word.

  7. Paul says:

    I am referring to organizing and scheduling events before proper zoning was acquired. For some reason some folks here think wineries are the answer to The Counties prayers and that just is not the case. I will ask you this Wolfe why would a business schedule events before proper zoning was in place ?

  8. Wolf Braun says:

    Paul: “but wineries should not be afforded any special treatment and should follow due process like any other business.”

    Are you suggesting that they are not following due process? What reason would they have for doing that?

  9. Paul says:

    Wineries are not new to The County they have not been the be all end all by any means, otherwise The County would not be running a deficit. Just like any other business in The County they will contribute to The County coffers but wineries should not be afforded any special treatment and should follow due process like any other business.

  10. Marnie says:

    Hint, Wolfe – It would take more than a French grape.

  11. Wolf Braun says:

    Marnie: “Sorry but I have to ask. Do you quiver with excitement when you pass the grapes in the produce section at Metro?”

    Nope ! Those are man-engineered grapes that come from off-shore ! In countries where the average monthly wage is about what we pay here in one hour or less. On top of that they are for the most part tasteless. And not even close to the grapes we grow here for making wine… 99% of the fruit grown here is French… original stock from places like Burgundy…for making first-class wines. How about you Marnie, what makes you quiver ? LOL

  12. Marnie says:

    Good Golly Tim! You mean that there are no county people working at the mushroom plant now? There are no locals who work there who are spending their pay cheques in the community? Do robots run the place? What about the farmers who sell all of that hay and straw to the mushroom plant? Don’t tell me they give it away. The money they receive for it goes back into the local economy and boosts their income. Oh yes, prices going up is a real bonus. It means we have something that’s in demand. Try peddling that load of codswallop to the young couples who would like to own a home but cannot afford the ridiculous prices here or the seniors who are being forced to sell because they can no longer pay their taxes. But of course they can always drink wine and forget about it.

  13. Mark says:

    What you have to factor in is how much of that money ends up in municipal coffers. That has to be balanced with road stress (which is a crisis) and infrastructures. I guess the question is since the arrival of great tourism and wineries, why has our services and infrastructure become unsustainable? Who’s reaping the benefits?

  14. Tim says:

    Hate to break it to you Marnie but the Mushroom plant is not “bolstering our economy”. Next to no money made there is staying here. Also, there in no spin off business. Gotta let go of this micro view and look at the bigger picture. Tourism is a good thing, people come, spend their money in our economy then go home…perfect scenario.

    Also prices going up is a good thing… it means we have something that is in demand, and in change, will paint a better picture for our kids and grandkids

  15. Marnie says:

    Unlike you Wolfe I do not believe that all that we are we owe to grapes. I for one do not find it especially entertaining or educational to visit a winery and before you ask I have been there done that. I found a tour of the Glenora fish hatchery a lot more interesting. Our local economy is bolstered by key industries such as the cement plant and the mushroom plant and a variety of small businesses that provide employment.Wineries have driven up the price of land in the areas surrounding them. This has not been of much help to those living nearby who have seen their taxes rise as a result. Why must we say the word winery with such reverence? It’s only booze after all. Sorry but I have to ask. Do you quiver with excitement when you pass the grapes in the produce section at Metro?

  16. Mark says:

    I have no difficulty with the concept of a spinoff commerce opportunity. We need all the jobs we can get and increased tax base. My difficulty was the guise of classing it as agriculture. Council will be challenged increasingly with these type of decisions as the face of the County changes. I was disappointed however if I understand it correctly that new development secondary plan is not required to connect to municipal water and wastewater. Picton residents cannot afford the 30 million dollar waste plant. We need more users not fewer.

  17. Wolf Braun says:

    What’s the basis for your difficulty Mark ?

    Like I said to Marnie there are gazzilion wineries in this world that do more than just grow grapes and make wine. Everything from golf tournaments, Inns and much much more.

    Think “entertainment” and “tourism”. When you go to a winery for a tasting it’s an entertainment and educational experience. You learn a lot about the soil, the vines, the care & maintenance of the fields, harvest, barrels, production, equipment, bottling as part of the whole process experience. That’s entertainment and education.

    You don’t get any of those things at a dairy, cattle, sheep, ostrich, etc. farm. You can go and learn about growing heirloom veggies at Vicki’s. She’ll educate on how she grows heirloom veggies and her well known tomatoes.


  18. Mark says:

    I can get my head around growing grapes as a type of farming. I have a difficulty accepting weddings, dances, bars, entertainment as a type of farming. That is a stretch. What produce is being grown? Not saying I am for or against just don’t try to BS me.

  19. Wolf Braun says:

    Marnie: “The county successfully existed long before the wineries came so they are not what is propping us up now.”

    Based on facts, what is propping up the economy in PEC ?

  20. Wolf Braun says:

    Marnie: “There is a difference between growing grapes and running a facility for special events. Hosting weddings and similar celebrations cannot be called farming natural or otherwise.”

    What would you call it Marnie?

    There are a gazzillion wineries in this world that not only grow grapes and produce wines but also host guests for all kinds of events including weddings. Heck, there’s a New Zealand winery that hosts a PGA Golf event on their own course. Not only the winery owners but also their customers think this is very natural.

    Look at Huff Estate Winery. They run an outstanding winery but they also run a lovely Inn, and in partnership, an art gallery. What’s unnatural about that? All 3 employ a lot of people in one place and that’s over and above their vineyards.

    Lastly, some of our County wines are being recognized in competitions around the world. Why? Because we have great soil conditions here. Our land is hundreds of millions of years older than Burgundy, France. We’re on the same latitude as Burgundy, but we just have better limestone soils that are ideal for growing grapes and other foods.

  21. sanmc says:

    Can anyone state the real reason for council’s deferral? That might settle the disgruntled approach and stop this creating this molehill into a mountain of figments and fairy tales.

  22. sanmc says:

    Deferral is the issue here, not jobs in the county or in Ontario.

  23. Gary Mooney says:

    Tim’s comments are bang on. The County’s economy has always been based on agriculture, with particularly prosperous periods specializing in exporting barley, cheese and canned products. Now we’re exporting wine.

    In contrast with the earlier periods of prosperity, we’re able to leverage the winery business to expand local tourism as well.

    Some people don’t like reliance on wineries for jobs because they are perceived as being low-paying / non career jobs (a view that I don’t share).

    In any case, it’s not either/or. These jobs are available. If nobody wants work for wineries, so be it. If high-paying manufacturing jobs come our way, that’s fine. But we don’t have to choose between winery jobs and manufacturing jobs. We’ll take both.

  24. Chris Keen says:

    Ontario wineries contributed “$3.3 billion to the province’s economy in 2011, many thousands of direct and indirect jobs, as well as $644 million in tourism and tourism employment, according to the Ontario Winery and Grower Alliance of Ontario.”

    This is not insignificant!

  25. Gary says:

    Agreed. And there are no I’s to dot or T’s to cross. It either meets the permitted use under the present zoning or it doesn’t.

  26. Chris Keen says:

    The Grapes of Wrath event has been approved. Sanity has prevailed (at least once). The 500 – 1000 people expected at this event will be yet another economic boost for the County. This is the sort of business we should be welcoming with open arms.

  27. sanmc says:

    “Do they reject and spend taxpayers dollars at an OMB hearing?”

    ummm, defer does NOT mean reject!

    Geesh … threats about an OMB hearing are just that threats. Is that what works when council defers an issue? NO! It’s hardly the time for talk like this when one has started going through a process.

    Time is needed to study the application, the language to consider, draft up the final decision with dots on i’s and t’s, etc. WHAT is the freakin’ hurry?

    yesss, the impatience, urgency and the discontent which is of their own making begs the question of what is really happening. What is being hidden that requires this to be rammed through. Is somebody paying daily-double interest on a bridge loan or somethin’ … bankruptcy?

    Like I said, there is more than what has been written up, and nobody’s telling. However, grumbling speaks volumes.

  28. Mark says:

    Well if it meets zoning, Official Plan and the Provincial Policy Statement I don’t get it. Do they reject and spend taxpayers dollars at an OMB hearing?

  29. Paul says:

    That had me wondering as well it sounds as though events have already been booked, investing and rebuilding a barn before being rezoned seems bass ackwards too. Would that be pee poor business operating policy or did they for some reason believe rezoning was a done deal, Hmmm something smells fishy here

  30. Tim says:

    Though I agree with the article it does not focus on the bigger picture. Employment from wineries is not the key contributor here, yes I imagine most are part-time and yes, likely some migrant workers. Here are my main issues with this:

    1. Hate to say it but wineries are not the only farms or businesses in the County using off-shore workers. There are some “natural” farms in the County which also use this practice. Farming is a skilled labour which not all students can jump in and do, these off-shore workers help to create local produce, products and business and that in turn is much greater for the good then them making money and sending it home.

    2. Creating employment is not nearly the main economic driver at play with the winery movement in PEC. Tourists are not driving from Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal ect to visit one winery return home. They are spending in accommodation, restaurants and retail throughout the whole County. This, believe it or not has a trickle effect and let’s all of us enjoy a more sustainable economy and wineries are a driving factor behind this.

    3. I am fairly confident that not all winery owners are excavating their own land, constructing their own buildings and doing all their own servicing. Over the past decade there would have been millions upon millions of dollars spent by wineries for local services from contracting to plumbing, electrical, tech support on and on and on. Once again this helps drive an economy.

    4. If the people think that the County will become a manufacturing hub then they are naive. Manufacturing companies are not interested in setting up plants 40km off the 401 for the simple fact that the transport costs double and in some cases triple being this far off the 401. It is not a coincidence that industry parks are located just off of the highway.

    So I guess my question is, if not growing through tourism then what is the plan? Basic economics show that sustainable economies need multiple streams of revenue sources and this will be greater for the County as a whole. It’s about time we put differences aside and start working with our assets to help sustain this place we all love so much

  31. sanmc says:

    yessss, I remember Fields on West Lake. Messy and bitter for weeks. Sounds as familiar as some on this thread.

    The article reads like some plans were already about to go forward, before approval was sought and now they’re in a pickle. The cart before the horse? sorry to say.

    Council has made the right decision to defer. imo. The winery is kinda crammed into that little acreage and that to me seems to be the bigger prob for all concerned. Not much forethought into future development until now or the business growing to fast (creates probs for expansion).

    WHAT’s the real prob here? … time, money, humanity!

  32. Marnie says:

    There is a difference between growing grapes and running a facility for special events. Hosting weddings and similar celebrations cannot be called farming natural or otherwise.

  33. Chris Keen says:

    “Hillier Creek Estate’s application meets all the planning tests – provincial policy statements and the County’s official plan.” – yet the application is deferred for no good reason. A cynic might conclude that some Councillors were doing an-ex Councillor a favour. “Natural farming”!!?? What is unnatural about growing grapes? It’s still farming.

  34. Gary says:

    A reasoned, informed opinion yes. The County isn’t what it used to be as the world has changed. We need to be inventive and adaptive. We need every tax dollar we can generate. Sure don’t want to put up a sign “closed for business”.

  35. Wilson says:

    Marnie, you say the County existed successfully before the wineries came, are you referring to the canning factory era? The wineries are exactly what is helping to prop us up!! The visitors to the wineries spend $$$$$ and lots of it. When they purchase gasoline, dine in our restaurants, lodging,taxi service,grocery stores,gift shops they are supporting the whole community. Tourists come and visit our beach but hey why not give them another reason to stay for a few days and maybe just maybe they will tell their friends and they might come too and spend $$$. I would like to know where we can show our support for Hillier Creek Estates Winery?

  36. Finn says:

    Is it lost on anybody that Peggy Burris lives right across the road from this venue? Seems to me that she didnt fight the other venues or the monstrosity if a trailer park on agricultural land at the end of Bakjer Road. Peggy is looking after Peggy, and her old friends on council are looking after Peggy too.

  37. Marnie says:

    The county successfully existed long before the wineries came so they are not what is propping us up now. Grapes are getting too much credit. Does anyone recall the controversy surrounding Fields at West Lake and the neighbouring tourist cabin owners across the road? It’s in council’s favour that there was no hasty vote on the request to hold special events at the Hillier winery. A deferral is not the end of the world.

  38. sanmc says:

    First of all council has to be careful as not to set a precedent with all this wine business stuff, or they will lose control of it and what will be created is a big mess everywhere for everyone.

    Ontario Prov. Police is basically run by the Province, look at the budget that is sent down the pipe to municipalities. The Province has always and will do what it wants, where and when. ie turbines, dams, highways, bridges, airfields, wetlands, agriculture, mining, etc.

    I would not want to live down the road from … or beside a venue where noise and traffic are created and increased at random created by the stroke of a pen making it all happen. I wouldn’t have bought into that initially on the purchase of MY house. This kind of thing effects more than one person’s life. It ends up effecting the whole county.

    The noise bylaws in this county are a joke with a challenge to understanding them and guessing at how to enforce them. It’s lax & lame. Depending if Andy wants to go out of bed at 1 am or not.

    20 jobs? … more immigrant workers who know how to pour wine or serve up coffee having experience at Tim Horton’s? Is there a guarantee that these jobs will go to students in the county? No.

    The motivation for Doctors is business! Where they can get tax breaks, due to the money they earn. It’s as simple as that. Money, money, money. No fence to the doctor in question, glad she is in the county with a sound financial reason to stay.

    Using the cautionary principle is the right call by council. imo. There is more to this issue than what’s being reported from beyond the door of chambers.

  39. Kim Leonard says:

    Job creation Prince Edward County leads to much needed income for the community. So many of our children have to leave because there are no jobs (minimum wage or otherwise). I think that the precedent of wedding and special events venues @ wineries has been set. The owners of Hillier Creek Estates have completed the process asked for by the council. The council should be thrilled as investment means a tax base that can support the much needed road repair and maintenance of amenities. Please vote in the next election to send a message to the council members who are blocking progress.

  40. Paul says:

    Excellent point Gary ,I have no response what so ever…

  41. Gary says:

    It is frowned upon unless you want to build a luxurious OPP station on such lands.

  42. Paul says:

    Isn’t rezoning prime agricultural land frowned upon ” ” so my guess is a Municipal Board Appeal wouldn t go far….

  43. Jennifer Loner says:

    I live just down the road from the winery, actually quite a few wineries are just down the road from us. I am glad to see the tourist come to these venues. If we want people to continue living in the County we need to ensure that the tourist come so business can thrive and our homes are still worth something. I don’t see how letting them have weddings and functions affects farming?? I grew up in the county, and although I don’t personally drink, I do see the wineries bringing a lot of people in. I think the council needs to be objective and see what is best for the community and not allow their own personal history cloud their judgements.

  44. Marnie says:

    I hear you Ken but there are already a large number of places for wedding receptions. Give to one, take from another. There is only so much business to go around. The end result is not necessarily more jobs. I do not think that any application before council should be judged on the basis of the applicant(s) profession. Doctors are well paid professionals, which is right and fair. They are not “giving” their services to the community and do not deserve any special consideration from council.

  45. Ken Globe says:

    At this point in time in this area, a job is a job. It would be nice to have another venue to choose from for weddings and special events too.

  46. Marnie says:

    Would those 20 jobs be 20 part-time minimum wage jobs by any chance? At the very worda “winery” and “doctor” should we stand and salute? Lots of people give back to the community including Mrs. Burris who has served as a member of council.

  47. Janice says:

    Where can we show our support for hillier creeks? The county old boys network looks like it is alive and well…

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