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Proposed Hillier hotel triples number of rooms in latest re-design

At close to 150 rooms, the proposed Redtail Hotel and Spa development in Hillier has tripled the number of accommodation spaces it intends to offer since its initial planning application three years ago.

At a virtual public meeting Wednesday evening, considered an information session only, representatives of Redtail owners Blocknote Canada Inc., provided an outline of current revised development plans for a site it owns located adjacent Loyalist Parkway, south of Consecon. The 57-hectare parcel of land sits near the intersection of County Road 27 and Partridge Hollow Road.

Around 30 people attended the meeting, including councillors Margetson, Maynard, Harper, Bailey, McMahon and St-Jean.

Audience questions came in the form of concerns about whether there was sufficient well water supply – especially to neighbouring properties, entrance and traffic concerns, setbacks and parking, the site’s natural features, as well as the scale of the proposed development.

The project features 148-rooms contained within 38 clusters of smaller one-storey buildings, an estate winery with restaurant, and a Nordic spa with cafe.

The tourist commercial development application for Official Plan Amendment and Zoning Bylaw Amendment, the mixed-use resort includes an event/conference facility with meeting rooms and various recreational areas, including a tennis court and swimming pool.

The proposed development is expected to be constructed in two phases with phase one including about half the hotel units plus the winery and spa. Phase two will include the remaining half of hotel rooms as capacity in terms of servicing allows, as well as market demand.

Blocknote first presented a detailed outline of its planned development, known as Redtail East, pre-COVID pandemic at a public meeting at Hillier Hall in September 2019. The proposal at that time was for a 50-room, two-storey hotel.

Adam Layton, a principal with Evans Planning provided an half hour presentation where he noted a lot of work had been done since the last meeting, including changes to the thinking of the project, calling it “an evolution in the design of the hotel”.

“One of major re-thinkings of the proposal since 2019 to now is the hotel itself,” he said.

Previously contemplated was a two-storey standard hotel building with all units off common corridors, he said.

“The evolution of the design has led to a new concept of a villa-style development where each building is one or 1.5 storeys and not tall in height in order to ensure they are not protruding into view or the scenic views of the rural area.”

Layton noted that under the current zoning a farm winery would be permitted, indicating the owners of the property are seeking to establish an estate winery which requires a zoning amendment. He also said there would be different operators for the winery, the hotel and the spa.

About a third of the site will be planted for agricultural use with vineyards.

“The majority of the southern portion of the site is already occupied by existing or future vineyards, 30,000 vines have been planted over the last several years,” said Layton.

Layton said they would not only protect the features of the property, but preserve the existing hedgerows, where possible.

“About 58 per cent of the property will be kept in a natural state or made into agricultural use.”

It was noted that various watercourses, wetlands and woodlands have been identified on the site, with appropriate buffers provided from 10 to 15 metres.

Layton said water in particular is a concern, but investigations had been undertaken since 2019 to ensure there is sufficient water supply and capacity, with no impacts to off-site wells.

“Thirteen test wells have been drilled; three viable wells have been discovered with approximate flow of 44,000 litres per day, which is just about in keeping with what the proposed phasing of the site would accommodate.”

One audience question raised well water testing, asking if neighbouring wells are being monitored, noting how a lot of wells go dry in August and September. “I am very concerned about an already precarious water situation,” said the member of the public. He asked if they can commit to doing more monitoring of neighbouring wells given they will be taking out 40,000 or 50,000 litres a day.

Tony Guerrera, with Greer Galloway Group, said, “We are attempting to demonstrate that there is plenty of water available over the entire site to demonstrate it is viable to use groundwater as the main water supply.”

Kurt Kraler, with ERA Architects, went through the design of the hotel and spa, noting the design was inspired by local architecture, with elements to the agricultural roots of the region.

He said each of the 38 individual hotel one-storey buildings would be situated in a series of clusters and would hold a maximum of four bedrooms per building and would range in size from 1,100 to 1,600 square foot.

Four different types of hotel buildings are being proposed to cater to different user groups, each with an outdoor terrace.

One adjacent neighbour, frustrated by the process, asked what had happened to the designation of the bobolink and meadowlark fields in the original environmental study, noting the fields had been planted with vines.

“All the fields in the south are being maintained, and for the areas where there is some removal that could provide habitat, will be addressed,” answered ecologist Kristi Quinn, who said she couldn’t speak to when the vines were planted.

In response to concerns about traffic on Loyalist Parkway, Layton confirmed recommendations had been suggested for the site entrance, which are currently under review.

Councillor Janice Maynard had concerns about the water testing and when it was carried out, noting shallow soil in the area. She recalled that in the first round of comments in 2019, there were quite a few comments from farmers on the water and noted the use of 44,000 litres of water usage per day proposed.

“We did demonstrate that there was certainly plenty of water available at three of the production wells that we did drill,” said Guerrera. “There is also quite a large area of land that is untapped so we didn’t drill it; we did enough drilling to demonstrate that there was water.”

He noted that once the vines are established, they are not normally irrigated. “They don’t like a lot of water.” Further, he said they anticipated water for the pools would be delivered as needed.

Maynard also expressed concern about wildlife passing through the area in a north-south direction.

Wellington resident Heather Ford spoke to the scale of the accommodations, as well as seeking clarification on the definition of an estate winery versus a farm winery.

Layton explained the two different types of winery defined in the zoning bylaw and official plan.

“The main difference between a farm winery and an estate winery is the size of retail allowed and whether or not a restaurant or banquet facilities would be allowed,” explained Layton.

He noted a farm winery does not allow a restaurant or banquet facility, whereas as an estate winery does.

Ford asked if there were any other developments in the County comparable in size adding “148 rooms seems large.”

It was noted that Isaiah Tubbs Resort has 74 rooms, so the proposed Redtail development at full build-out would be just under twice the number of rooms.

“I do believe this would be on the larger side of what’s currently available,” said Layton.

Next steps include a statutory public planning meeting which is expected this summer.

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  1. Paul D Cole says:

    I’m a little unsure on this issue, I agree the jobs(with accommodations) and the benefits to the local economy are great and could be year round employment. Another possible benefit would be the competition it would create for STA’s, however changing zoning seems like it could be a slippery slope for The County. I suppose more info is needed but it does sound as though it could be beneficial for The County…

  2. B Wilder says:

    Some businesses recruit their employees from elsewhere because they cannot find local people to fill available positions. In fact at least one business attempted to recruit retired seniors as they could not find younger people to work for them.

  3. LB says:

    The spa will pay big (net new) property taxes and they will employ locals and source local goods & services. And no, [spoiler alert] your property taxes will never go down.

  4. angela says:

    When the McMansions were built in the county, we expected it would mean some tax relief. Instead our taxes went up. These new developments do not reduce our taxes. How is it advantageous to bring in more people? We can’t manage the people we have now – no doctors, no vets, no affordable housing. These resorts make money for the developers and provide pleasure for wealthy tourists. They do zero for most locals. Staff is often brought in so they do not bring much employment for county people.

  5. B Wilder says:

    So far, a couple of vineyards have been planted and a winery building has been built. As a result, people have been employed to accomplish this. The construction of the hotel units and spa will employ trades people and once built will employ staff to run the properties. This can mean employment for locals and may bring in more permanent residents. All of these people will be contributing to the local economy. It is interesting that the people that complain about these projects are the same people that complain about the state of the roads, the cost of housing and lack of services. This project will be paying taxes at a much higher rate than any farm and will employ many more people.

  6. Toby says:

    Fantastic. Looking forward to this coming to fruition! A fantastic addition to the community.

  7. Joanne says:

    Do we really need another resort? Is there going to be 25-33% Affordable Housing or lodging for staff?
    Do they have a plan for climate change? If wells do run dry, then why? Can there be a stipulation that there be a public water source from one of their wells?

    Increased auto traffic and heavier delivery trucks, buses. Like Teena said; and will the roads be maintained by the Resort or there be a fee to The County so taxpayers aren’t footing the bill for these additional expenses including garbage/recycling fees? And, is this really ‘in-tune’ with County residents; their historical lifestyle and sense of place, and the landscape as per The Official Plan? Not only as to protecting our natural resources, agriculture, protected species but that we are to be developing within County Water/Sewage as a priority so that these costs may be offset by any new developments.

    Which is it? Why one development serviced by well water and not another? Why not then allow for our own local developer Mr. VanDussen and Rosseau Acres? He, his staff and the people who reside in his Off-Grid Affordable Housing Development will be more likely to shop local too! It would only be a 7 minute drive to Picton.

  8. Don says:

    Once again, Council is being asked to change its official plan and zoning regulations to accommodate developers from outside of the County, and once again the same old questions come up.For example:
    The lack of affordable rental housing makes it difficult (if not impossible) for hospitality outlets in Picton to recruit seasonal staff. What do these developers think will be different in Hillier?
    What are the impacts on local residents? Effect on neighboring wells? Traffic? Garbage disposal?
    The biggest question is Will Council realize that local tax paying residents do not want developments like this (and Adolphus Reach) in the County?

  9. angela says:

    Only when they have destroyed our last natural vista and exploited Prince Edward County to the full will the developers leave. As long as there is a nickel to be made they will have their hands out for it. A beautiful rural community is rapidly being destroyed in the name of tourism and greed.

  10. Teena says:

    This AND the Adolphus Reach Resort? Didn’t we just fini9sh showing IRTH the door? Hmmm. Can’t any of these companies do anything without making amendments to the rules set out by the County? Tired of the developers, and builders seeking to side-step everything to get what they want. I understand the people and farmers who actually live here. I don’t see what these two “resorts” will be contributing for the residents. The money they make will only serve them, and inconvenience the population. And who, pray tell, will be making contributions to the services here – hospital, ambulance, fire department, etc., with the influx of tourists? Our County services seem stretched as it is, and the “new” hospital will barely cover the populations requirements, and a few of our doctors are retiring. What a mess!

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