Three years between public appearances may have dulled public interest in a hotel proposal on the edge of Old Town.
The four residents who spoke at an open house virtual meeting Monday night said little about the Van Riesen Hotel Group’s plans to convert the Ketchum-Thomas-Phillips House into an 81-room hotel.
Among those who did speak, resident David Parker, an architect, took the most interest in the proposal’s impact on the Ketchum house, which is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.
The planning report stated the house was likely constructed between 1876 and 1904, when wealthy Americans were buying up land in Niagara-on-the-Lake to build summer estates.
Parker said the house is one of the “few large estate lots left in the town.”
Jennifer Vida, a planner representing the developer, said it is no longer financially viable to use the property as a residence.
The lot also has a two-storey coach house facing Mississagua Street and a one-storey building in the southwest corner.
The developer plans to maintain the structures, but also wants to add a new four-storey building with 48 rooms.
The new building will be 15.28 metres (50 feet) tall and the top floor will be made of glass.
That should help it “blend in” with its surroundings, Vida said.
The developer plans to add two storeys to the outbuilding to accommodate 24 more hotel rooms.
The coach house and historic Ketchum house will also be renovated to accommodate hotel rooms, a bar, restaurant and common area.
A greenhouse is proposed to be turned into a dining area.
The hotel group, owned by NOTL developer Rainer Hummel, is seeking both a zoning and planning change to permit the 81-room hotel.
Current approvals cap the hotel at 24 rooms.
Glen Bandiera said he was “intimidated by the number of rooms” in the design, but agreed with the proposed use and concept.
Bandiera was also concerned about how the hotel would affect traffic at the busy corner.
The planning justification report said the developer intends to minimize traffic impact on the neighbouring houses by building a single access point to the hotel on Queen Street.
And a traffic impact report, also included with the application, said the proposed 163 parking spaces are “sufficient to accommodate the projected demand.”
And Carla Rienzo was most concerned about noise levels.
Despite Vida’s assurance that the town’s noise bylaw would be enforced at the proposed hotel, Rienzo was unconvinced.
She said she had not even a “shadow of a doubt” that noise would be a problem for the abutting homeowners.
“I live near the Pillar and Post, and it is a chronic issue,” she said.
Rienzo was also concerned about the proposal’s impact on the water table.
Vida said the developer had planned for any impacts to the water table made by the three storeys of underground parking, but the details would not be sorted out until later in the development process.
A public meeting on the development proposal is to be held at town hall on Oct. 3.