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Hotel, winery and Nordic spa in Redtail’s proposed development

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
A proposed development of land in Hillier, for now to be known as Redtail East, includes a 50-room hotel with restaurant, Nordic spa, meeting/conference space, and winery.

The new owners of Redtail Winery, Blacknote Canada Inc., hosted a public information session last week at Hillier Town Hall. With close to a full hall, about 50 people came out to hear Blacknote’s proposed development plans for a parcel of land (part of Lot 30, Concession 3) bordering the Loyalist Parkway in Hillier ward.

Situated just past Partridge Hollow Road to the north, and County Road 27 to the south, the site bordering the east side of Highway 33, is three kilometres south of Consecon.

The Official Plan identifies this part of Prince Edward County as a tourism corridor, and designates the site as rural land, environmentally-protected, and vacant.

Ruth Ferguson Aulthouse, president of RFA Planning Consultant Inc., acting on behalf of Blacknote Canada as lead consultant, made a formal presentation outlining the extent of the proposed development, with background and an overview of the project, as well as mentioning the various reports obtained, which included an environmental impact study.

She noted it was an information meeting, and not a statutory meeting under the Planning Act, where the intent is to share information, seek input, address concerns and answer questions. It was noted that the owners want to be good neighbours, and are open to receiving feedback.

Half a dozen display boards outlined the proposed site plan, the renderings and showed the proposed design for the winery, spa and hotel.

Also forming part of the consultancy team were Charles Mitz and Tony Guerera of Greer Galloway, consulting engineers, along with project manager Treat Hull.

Also present were Hillier councillor Ernie Margetson, Ameliasburgh councillors Bill McMahon and Janice Maynard, and Picton councillor Kate MacNaughton.

Ferguson Aulthouse noted that a planning application was filed by her firm, on behalf of Blacknote Canada, with the municipality in July, and included an official planning amendment zoning bylaw. Further, she noted that about six different studies were undertaken, some just in preliminary form, the reports of which are available from the municipality.

Blacknote Canada is also the owner of the small boutique Redtail Winery situated on Partridge Hollow Road.

Project manager Treat Hull said it’s new owners want to expand Redtail.

“They have a vision of a winery coupled together with a hotel, and importantly, a Nordic spa that would become an actual destination that people would come specifically to,” said Hull.

He compared it to Ste. Anne’s Spa in Grafton (near Cobourg), Ontario, which is the largest spa in Canada, but it was stressed it would not be as large as Ste. Anne’s.

Hull said the development would not only bring more visitors, but would be a significant employer, and the spa in particular would become a year-round attraction according to a consultancy report conducted, and something that would bring people to the County in the low tourist seasons.

Hull was involved in the site selection and reviewed 51 potential parcels of land in the west end of the County. He said that the Official Plan indicates that the County needs and wants resorts, but noted that it says resorts belong on shorelines. His findings found no satisfactory shoreline sites available.

He noted the current proposed site is a quiet rural area in the interior portion with a 10-acre mature red oak forest that is protected.

The size of the entire property is 58 hectares, with three-quarters of the site to be devoted to the estate winery.

The development is to be divided into two phases.

The winery being phase one, will be developed almost immediately, and consists of 43 hectares. Phase two will include future plans for a hotel and spa on 15 hectares.

All internal buildings, parking and driveways will be situated in open meadow areas, set back to ensure the existing wetlands are protected and to work with the existing grades of the land, and not to affect natural drainage.

“There is a wood lot on the north end of the site that would be protected and there would be no development within that woodlot,” said Ferguson Aulthouse, who said the same applies to existing hedgerows. “All of the development is positioned away from wetlands and environmentally protected (EP) area with a 30-metre setback, to ensure the EP lands are protected.”

She noted that there is a central ridge on the site which has guided placement of the buildings. It runs north-south, all the way down to the wetlands.

“It is an opportunity to position the hotel and spa well away from the road avoiding surrounding homes,” said Ferguson Aulthouse, who confirmed that it will not be visible from the Loyalist Parkway.

The winery, however, will be positioned closer to Loyalist Parkway, with just one single access point to the site from the Loyalist Parkway, across from Partridge Hollow Road. The access point is currently a farm road.

The winery and the vineyards will be mostly on the south portion of the site, south of the wetland area. Fifteen hectares of grapes are proposed to begin cultivation in 2019 and 2020, with the winemaking starting in 2021, with grapes grown on-site in 2024.

The winery building is south of the entrance at Partridge Hollow Road and will consist of a production facility, storage, parking, and a small retail hospitality room of 1,800 square feet. In addition, accommodation is proposed for migrant workers.

“The winery itself conforms to the rural policies of the Official Plan which sets out what estate wineries need to consider,” said Ferguson Aulthouse. “It will have its own services; its own water supply and its own sewage disposal area.”

Phase two of the project involves the hotel and Nordic spa which will be situated in the north-east part of the property, above the wetlands, south of the wooded area and east of the central ridge.

The hotel will be two-storey with 50 rooms, with 25 rooms on each floor, with 2,500 square feet of conference and meeting space, and a 50-seat all-day restaurant, also open to the public. There will also be a swimming pool, fitness room, gardens and outdoor patios, and two separate parking lots.

The Nordic day spa is to be a year-round indoor/outdoor facility involving 5,700 square feet of building space, and will contain change rooms, lockers, showers, a small retail space, lobby and a 25-seat spa cafe. Outdoors, there will be buildings with saunas and steam room, a relaxation room and pools and deck area. The spa will be available to day users as well as hotel guests.

Ferguson Aulthouse noted there would be no development proposed in the wooded areas except for a nature trail.

Tony Guerera, of Greer Galloway, spoke to the traffic impact assessment and the storm water management reports conducted. Also, Charles Mitz, of Greer Galloway, addressed sewer and water, including assessing how much water will be needed.

A question and answer period followed where audience asked about water concerns, noting it was a drought area of the County, with another asking if they had considered a cisterns system.

One person mentioned it was good news to create employment, but raised concerns about the affordable housing shortage, asking if on-site housing was planned. It was noted by the consultants that there was little opportunity on site. Another asked what impact the project would have on taxes.

Someone asked about the timeline for the hotel. The consultants indicated no meaningful development is planned until a hotel/spa partner is found and that search is currently under way.

The noise of the nearby quarry was raised, asking if spa clients would want to hear the noise from the quarry when they have paid to be at a relaxing spa when the quarry starts blasting. It was also suggested that seismic sensors be installed, to which the consultants were receptive.

There were numerous concerns about water, well depth and testing at different times of the year, as well as the effects of the quarry on the water table.

The issue of climate change was addressed, and the question of whether there were any plans to be carbon-neutral, given that the County has declared a climate emergency.

Hull confirmed the existing Redtail Winery, known as a farm winery, situated on Partridge Hollow Road, which is also owned by Blacknote Canada, will remain as is.

“There is an ownership connection, but a limited business connection,” said Hull. “There won’t be necessarily the same grapes grown, the branding won’t necessarily be the same; the main point is that they are under a common ownership.”

Hull confirmed the existing winery will not expand as it had used up its existing parcel of land. “There is no possibility and no plan for any meaningful expansion in terms of planting or size,” he said.

He also noted that it is not clear that the name of the new winery will remain Redtail.

“The meeting tonight was extremely productive,” said Hull. “People had concerns, and pretty much all of them were well-founded and deserved to be considered.”

“I found the meeting, by and large, supportive with adequate consideration; ‘we support this, but there are some issues you’ve got to consider along the way’ was the tone I took away from the meeting.”

All documents, reports and planning applications pertaining to the proposed development are available from the municipality.

Filed Under: Featured ArticlesWineries-Cider-Breweries

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  1. Angela says:

    Our path took a wrong turn. We are transforming the county into an amazing place for visitors at a high price – the transformation from a peaceful and very beautiful rural community to a playground for the well-to-do. We have seen millions of dollars worth of new construction which have done nothing to lower our taxes. There are lots of minimum wage seasonal jobs but no real jobs with benefits for our young people. There is something inherently wrong with building a hotel and a Nordic spa on country fields. The Red Tail Winery was so named because its original owners saw and admired the red-tail hawks on their land. Not many hawks are likely to be found in luxury hotels and spas. The gentrification of our county is a sad thing to watch for a great many locals.

  2. Michelle says:

    Our path is set. We need to support developments. The old days of factories are gone. This is a high end destination for visitors. New developments pay hugely towards our needs.

  3. Angela says:

    I don’t think we need to invite the whole world to Prince Edward County. The roads are bad enough now.

  4. John says:

    Looks like a brilliant business model and it’s time for us to push the envelope more and build a robust all season tourist season with a Service Promise that will make us world class

  5. Fred says:

    We actively created this tourist industry. So let’s get on with it and grab every property tax dollar we can. Pretty hard to change course now,

  6. Mark says:

    @Tood: none of the land are producing at the moment. Placement of the buildings looks like it is selected on the least productive land and away from the road. Adding the vineyard would mean a net-positive of land use for production.

  7. Paul Marconi says:

    The best idea ever for Prince Edward County! A location of continued growth making this destination one of the exclusive destinations in Canada! You have my full support ! All the best!

  8. Angela says:

    Just what we need – another playground to bring even more people to a county already unable to handle the tourists now arriving in ever-growing numbers.

  9. Todd says:

    Looks very nice, but I’m curious, are the “vacant” lands they are talking about more productive farmers fields that will be taken out of production and turned into a paved paradise?

  10. Shelley Jones-Egan says:

    This sounds like it is better planned (than another recent one). If this is done right, I will be a happy Day attendee.

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