As far as public meetings for developments go, Tuesday night’s open house about a proposed hotel at The Village was tame.
Developer John Hawley had the crowd of about 200 people — mostly concerned Village residents — resting a little easier by the end of the two-hour conference, receiving rounds of applause and compliments for taking residents’ concerns seriously.
During the presentation Hawley gave a thorough overview of his current plans, past plans and how and why things have changed.
Currently, he has proposed an 80-room “boutique” hotel to be built on Niven Road, near the corner of Niagara Stone.
Originally there had been other ideas for the space, such as a retirement home or an apartment building, Hawley said, but after a deal with retirement home management company Chartwell fell through — and after coming to the realization that his company doesn’t know much about retirement homes — it was a risk he wasn’t willing to take.
The hotel option he said, was dreamed up about two years ago, based on advice from experienced neighbourhood planner Andres Duany.
In a video played for the crowd, Duany — who has been a consultant on similar communal living environments for two decades, working with Duany Plater-Zyberk — said he thinks the hotel would add to the diversity of a village centre by bringing in a “metropolitan” feel and creating a diversity in the neighbourhood by allowing new people to come in and mingle with residents.
Residents have expressed a number of concerns about the hotel, which Hawley also tackled head on during the meeting.
Some concerns included that a tall 80-room hotel would not fit the original plan for the town centre and contrast the aesthetics of the Village and Old Town; that it would only attract transient traffic and people who aren’t invested in the Village; that it would create traffic and parking problems; that it will decrease the values of Village homes; and that it doesn’t offer as much for the residents who invested into the neighbourhood, who would prefer some boutique shops instead.
Hawley said he doesn’t believe property values will decrease, noting he has been developing his vision for the Village for 22 years, and isn’t about to sabotage it now.
He said he thinks property values could actually increase.
Another point Hawley made is with the rezoning for the hotel, he would also be able to consider putting in a grocery store — something he is currently unable to do based on an appeal by Loblaw’s for the original development.
Hawley said after two decades, his company has decided “to hell with that.”
The grocer, he said, would be a high-end grocery store.
Nearly the entire room chuckled when a Village resident mentioned his fear of a No Frills going in.
As far as parking concerns go, Hawley said he would be making sure the development met “at least” the minimum of the Town’s bylaws for parking to address overflow concerns.
Another concern is that a proposed event hall next to the hotel — with a planned capacity for 250 people — would overload the Village and create problems with traffic and parking, as well as a row of rental units which residents say there were not aware of when buying into their homes.
Hawley said part of his revised plan was to address concerns related to parking. The new plan, he said, allows for more than 400 parking spaces, which he said should be sufficient for events happening at the centre.
Residents also expressed concerns about the SupperMarket.
“Some have expressed concerns it won’t continue, and others are concerned it will,” Hawley said, receiving laughs from the audience.
Hawley said he intends to find some way to keep the market events running.
The grass area between Shopper’s Drug Mart and Niagara Stone Road remains public property, he said. Some drawings presented showed the market moved to that area.
At least one resident stood up to express concerns that there will be days when events are all overlapping and even 400 parking spaces won’t be enough. He said he is worried parked vehicles will overflow onto residential streets when events run simultaneously.
Hawley said Jackson-Triggs and Stratus wineries — both located across the road from the Village on Niagara Stone — have offered their parking lots for market events when the wineries do not have events happening.
Residents expressed concerns that with a full hotel, hotel staff and overlapping events at the market and wineries, there still wouldn’t be enough parking, even with the additional parking at the wineries.
The hotel, which Hawley plans to be four storeys high, will be self-managed Hawley said, though there is the possibility in the future it could be managed by a hotel service provider like Hilton.
Hawley said he has heard the residents' concerns and will be going back to the drawing board to consider the height again.
Many Village residents left the meeting with newly formed opinions of the project, despite a large chunk of attendees having signed a petition against his proposal.
Village resident Douglas Gibson, who helped coordinate the petition against the hotel, also stood up to thank Hawley for addressing many of the concerns from residents during the meeting.
He too thanked Hawley for addressing the concerns head on.
Of the around 150 people to sign the petition, he said, all of them support Hawley in developing the town centre — something he said residents expected and look forward to — though they are against the rezoning for a four-storey hotel.
It just has to be done right, and with the concerns of the residents in mind, he said.