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Friday, June 14, 2024
Council approves Hummel plan for four-storey hotel in Old Town
Coun. Gary Burroughs expressed concern over multiple aspects of the by law. JULIA SACCO

Councillors passed a controversial bylaw Tuesday night to make way for the creation of an 81-room hotel in Old Town.

The new bylaw permits land around 228 Queen St. to be rezoned to allow the hotel development. 

Couns. Wendy Cheropita, Nick Ruller, Adriana Vizzari, Erwin Wiens and Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa cast votes in favour of the plan.

Couns. Tim Balasiuk, Gary Burroughs and Sandra O’Connor voted against it.

Burroughs shared several issues he found with the proposal, including the absence of a required buffer strip.

“A five-foot 11-inch fence is in the bylaw. There’s a four-storey building going right next to the residential area with no buffer. I have a problem with that,” he said.

Burroughs also pointed to the bylaw’s requirement for two accessible parking spaces for the 81-room hotel and said two spaces doesn’t meet the town’s requirement for accessible parking on such a site.

The hotel, proposed by developer Rainer Hummel, has upset some residents of Old Town, including complaints from Harald Wattrus, during a planning meeting on May 7.

Wattrus’ in-laws own Philips House, a property at 184 Queen St., immediately southeast of Hummel’s proposed development.

Isaac Tang, legal counsel to the owners, made a presentation during Tuesday’s meeting addressing their concerns.

Tang shared similar feelings with Burroughs, saying that the hotel simply is not compatible with the area.

“You would think there would be more setbacks and more buffering,” Tang said.

At 13.5 metres tall, with modern architecture and design, the hotel will “set a different tone for the area,” he said.

“The first thing you see when driving into town is this property.”

He argued the property put before council was more of a destination location than a hotel, set to include a restaurant, two kitchens, a bar, an event space and a penthouse.

O’Connor, who voted against the plan, had similar concerns.

“I think that the whole size of the building, the mass of it — it’s a four-storey building, the design of the building itself — it’s not in keeping with the rest of the community, the streetscape of the community, specifically as the entrance to our heritage area,” she told The Lake Report later.

O’Connor also worried about stormwater management and the construction of a water table for underground parking.

Developers plan to look closer at these issues during the site plan stage, she said, but it is “too far down the road to be looking at these things.”

Tang referenced that aspect when listing possible detriments to the area, including dewatering, increased run-off, more traffic and poor planning regarding parking spaces.

Along with the hotel, Hummel proposed a three-storey parking garage with 163 spaces for guests.

“I understand that a three-storey parking garage is unprecedented in this town,” Tang said.

He believes that the developer has provided insufficient information to council on how all of the parking spaces will be achieved.

Tang’s final point was that if council passed the bylaw, there would be no right for third-party appeals under Bill 185.

“I understand all 23 residents have submitted concerns opposing the developer,” Tang said.

Cheropita, who supported the proposal, said that integration into Old Town will certainly be possible for the new development.

“I very carefully reviewed the project and this is zoning that we are approving. This is not the final product,” she said in an interview.

Council will still have an opportunity to ensure that things such as underground parking are done properly and that some form of barrier is added for residents, Cheropita said.

“(Council) has to ensure that integration is done with concern for the (Niagara-on-the-Lake) residents and the beautiful historic homes that are in the area,” she said.

“I do still think there is an opportunity to be able to ensure that the things residents were not happy about will still be addressed.”

juliasacco@niagaranow.com

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