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Expansion plans for Wander the Resort approved, with limits on capacity

By Sharon Harrison
With plans in the works to almost double the number of cabins, and increase amenities and uses, council approved amendment of the existing tourist commercial zoning for Wander the Resort Wednesday, to include a resort establishment, spa and event venue.

At the mid-week Planning and Development Committee meeting, council considered the zoning bylaw amendment application submitted by the owner who was seeking to amend the existing TC-24 zone to permit day use, a restaurant, a wellness centre, and events, where it is proposed the expanded resort will operate on a year-round basis.

The amendment to the existing special tourist commercial (TC-24) zoning includes 18 cabins already permitted under the zoning (there are currently 10 cabins on-site), as well as an easterly interior side yard setback reduction to 1.9 metres (from seven metres) from the lot line for the existing patio and gazebo.

It was noted that a few nearby neighbours had expressed concern in writing over water and septic issues, noise and parking, including several neighbours who spoke of their concerns at tonight’s meeting.

In his report to council, Scott Pordham, the County’s new policy planning coordinator, noted the planning department’s recommendation should include a capacity limit of 248 people and a minimum of 62 parking spaces

“Planning staff are recommending the amended zone include a provision to limit the capacity of the property to 248 people to ensure there is a mechanism for the municipality to address any potential overuse of services or overflow of parking onto Loyalist Parkway.”

Pordham notes the proponent’s consultants have not agreed to the capacity limit.

He noted that since the report was prepared, several comments have been received, several of them in support of the proposal, with one raising some concerns and questions with water and sewage, garbage bins on lands owned by the applicant on an adjacent property, and parking concerns.

An amending motion by councillor Roy Pennell to defer the decision of the application for one month to enable neighbours, staff and the Wander owner to have discussions about garbage and other issues, failed.

Situated on the north shore of West Lake, the site located at 15841 Loyalist Parkway is between Bloomfield and Wellington, and is 1.9 hectares (4.7 acres) in size, with 80 metres (262 feet) of frontage on Loyalist Parkway.

There are currently 10 cabins at the Wander establishment (also referred to as Resort Precinct), a main building including a clubhouse, a bar, offices, a kitchen and maintenance facilities, as well as a pool, patio, gazebo and beach on West Lake. It is noted all buildings existing and proposed are one- and two-storey, low-profile structures.

“The tourist cabins have existed for several decades, but have been renovated in recent years under the current ownership,” stated Pordham’s report.

Ray Essiambre with Ray Essiambre and Associates, planner and agent for Wander, noted how Wander was going through a transition.

“Wander was traditionally an accommodation use for many decades with cottages and a few accessory uses, transitioning now to a full resort offering in that it is now a four-season rather than seasonal,” explained Essiambre

Lot coverage of the proposed development is approximately 14 percent, with approximately 85 per cent of the property being provided as landscaped open space.

He noted they employ 45 full-time employees, 40 of whom are residents of Prince Edward County.

Essiambre noted consultation with neighbours has been undertaken with an open house where about a dozen neighbours received invitations, with two attending.

He noted questions came about how the water was going to be handled regarding water quantity and water quality, as well as septic, and potential noise issues and parking.

“There is recent correspondence from an immediate neighbour who can see some of the storage bins and some construction materials that is on an adjacent property,” said Essiambre. “Wander over the years has constructed fences for its neighbours at their own expense, and there was one section of fence that was not built and that’s why the neighbour can see some of what’s going on at the Wander property.”

“As of today, that fence is under construction, and hopefully will resolve issue for that neighbour.”

The proposed restaurant, wellness facility will occur within existing structures, although Essiambre noted events may be held within existing structures, or outside.

David Little, along with his wife Esther, owns a property next door to the Wander resort, where he expressed a few concerns around water supply, garbage, and also noise, especially as it pertains to weddings.

“Wander is a great, high quality resort that seems to be very well managed and all our interactions with the staff have been great,” noted David Little. “Of course, as the property develops, the opportunities, the challenges, issues and confrontations, increase.”

Little noted they have had no water issues at their property to date, but noted they have asked four or five times to be provided with the reports of the water tests to determine future impact, and have never received them.

“It’s important for us to get assurance that I can still switch my tap on at my dwelling to have a shower or drink the water,” he said.

Councillor Sam Branderhorst asked for confirmation from staff that water won’t be affected by the neighbouring residents, and that the water will suffice for everybody living in the area.

Little said what particularly concerns them right now is they believe construction has started on many of the other buildings.

“I still don’t know the impact of the water and I’ve had no real answers to that, and that is a fair request to ask for.”

He also had issues with the garbage area, as well as the parking.

“As the site is developed, so has the garbage. There are several dumpsters and garbage piles, a large pile of construction rubble that has appeared right on my property line,” said Little. “It’s not particularly neighbourly because the garbage was repositioned so guests can’t see it, but I have a good view from my back deck.”

Seeking clarification, councillor Janice Maynard asked if the garbage bins and construction materials are on the Wander property, where Essiambre confirmed they were on the adjacent residential property which is also owned by Wander.

“The garbage bins being on a residential property are associated more with the resort are an issue, I think,” said Pordham, who added that staff will have to look to see if it’s appropriate.

“My first instinct is that it is not; the bins should not be on residential property.”

Maynard said she would like to know how all of the construction materials and all of the garbage and all of the overflow parking is being handled now, and how will it be handled in the future, so that it does not appear on the residential property.

Little noted how his property is already used as a turning circle by Wander.

“As the resort grows, the parking requirements are going to grow, so please ensure there is adequate parking on the resort and adequate signage so they are not using my driveway as a turning area,” said Little.

There was also concern about weddings and corporate events, which Little said are “not always the quietest”, where he was concerned about the reality of noise stopping at 11 o’clock.

Another couple, Phil and Pat Brawley, who live a few properties over said they have enjoyed their cottage property for some 60-plus years and said they have the same concerns as raised by Mr. Little.

“Our biggest concern is the potential for noise and controls, and we understand events will be held there, including weddings; we are worried that it won’t stop at 11 o’clock,” said Pat Brawley.

“Our biggest concerns are noise,” added Phil Brawley, “it’s a beautiful site and it’s been perfect all along, really enjoyable, but I am terrified of weddings and parties. Has anybody been to a wedding where it’s gone quiet after 11 o’clock?” he asked.

“We are in a little cottage, my parents built it, I have my kids there, I have my grandkids there, and I’d like to pass it onto them, but if there is noise there, it ruins the whole atmosphere.”

The existing development is serviced by a private well and multiple septic systems, and the proposed development will be serviced by the existing well and a new sewage system to be installed. An underground water storage will also be installed with a dry hydrant for fire-fighting purposes.

Planning staff also recommend a safeguard “H” (Holding) symbol be applied to the zoning with conditions that require the on-site water supply and the on-site sewage system be approved by an environmental compliance approval, issued by MCEP (Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks).

Pordham noted the property, which is fenced for privacy, is relatively flat with a manicured lawn, a few trees and garden areas, with a parking area located between the main building and Loyalist Parkway.

“An additional pool and lounge area is currently being constructed on the west side of the main building.”

He also noted the residential property immediately to the west has been purchased by the owner of Wander the Resort for future use. Essiambre noted Wander owns three properties at the location, including those on either side of the main Wander resort, known as West Precinct and East Precinct.

The vacant industrial property to the west of the resort entrance is currently advertised as being ‘for sale’.

The property is currently designated Shore Land in the Official Plan, and Loyalist Parkway is identified as a Tourism Corridor.

The report states the new definition of a spa in the County’s bylaw shall mean a premise open to the general public which provides facilities wellness, fitness, relaxation, and contemplation, which services may include, but is not limited to, massage therapy, swimming pools (indoor or outdoor), saunas or steam rooms, personal services related to grooming, fitness and recreation.

“An event venue shall mean land, building or structure used for the purposes of hosting activities, such as weddings, birthdays, corporate gatherings or retreats,” states Pordham, indicating again the new definition of ‘event venue’ per the bylaw.

“The proposal will expand the current rural tourist commercial development in an area where other similar uses already exist and leverage the rural character and assets of West Lake,” he stated.

Regarding the reduction of the setback of the side yard from seven metres to 1.9 from the property line, councillor Pennell asked how close the house next door was, where Essiambre explained there is no family home next door, just unoccupied abandoned cabins which have been vacant for 10 years.

Through an Environmental Impact Study, there is no impact to significant natural heritage features with no natural features or areas on or adjacent to the property, with impacts on vegetation and wildlife to be minimal, with no species-at-risk observed. However, the EIS notes a requirement for a 30-metre setback from West Lake.

“We should commend Shannon [Hunter, Wander founder and owner] for being one of the top entrepreneurs in Canada and bringing this amazing resort here to the County: four seasons, 40 County employees makes it really, really attractive,” said councillor Sam Grosso. “It’s a unique resort that is fantastic for the County.”

The proposed development will be subject to site plan control, with final details of the development proposal to be considered through the site plan control process in due course.

“I think staff are going to make sure we don’t have another Lakeside Motel situation, which we are all familiar with, and which is still not fully resolved,” added councillor John Hirsch. “I am pretty sure that staff are going to ensure this is set up in such a way that we don’t have those same concerns.”

Ratification of today’s decision will come at the next council meeting, scheduled for May 23.

All related documentation for the Wander the Resort rezoning application can be found in the agenda package for this meeting on the County’s website.

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