Farm hotel

The latest version of a 20-room hotel proposed for 486 Lower Bench Rd.

come out of dormancy.

Poplar Grove Winery owner Tony Holler first proposed the 20-room hotel in spring 2018 to help fill a need for high-end hotel rooms and support agri-tourism. The original design had it going up on a portion of 468 Lower Bench Rd. that’s within the Agricultural Land Reserve and adjacent to the winery.

Following a heated, 75-minute public hearing, council in May 2018 approved in principal the zoning amendment required for it, and also gave its blessing to a non-farm-use application to the Agricultural Land Commission.

However, that application was denied by the ALC in February 2019, which wrote in its decision the hotel as initially proposed would have been “inconsistent with the preservation of agricultural land.”

Holler has now gone back to the drawing board and redesigned the hotel so it’s smaller and placed just outside the Agricultural Land Reserve, and asked council Tuesday to make the zoning amendment official.

City staff supported his request, but also offered alternatives, such as sending the matter to the Agricultural Advisory Committee or a new public hearing.

By a 5-2 vote, though, council gave final approval to the orginal zoning amendment.

“I don’t think it’s in the community’s best interest to rip off the Band-Aid and start all over again,” said Coun. Katie Robinson.

“I think it’s actually quite exciting for our city to look at this project.”

Mayor John Vassilaki said the hotel is in keeping with what’s happening in other wine regions of the world.

“They put those accommodations in their vineyards, because that’s where the people want to go when they visit those areas,” said Vassilaki.

“For us to prevent them to be able to see it and enjoy where the wine’s coming from… it would be criminal for us not to go ahead with this or any other project that’s near those areas.”

Opposing votes were registered by Couns. Julius Bloomfield and Jake Kimberley.

Bloomfield suggested the project be sent to the Agricultural Advisory Committee for a fresh opinion, since both the committee and council have gotten new members since last fall’s election.

Kimberley argued the project needed a fresh round of public consultation for the same reason.

“This is going to avoid that, which concerns me, so I can’t vote in favour of this,” said Kimberley.

Holler said afterwards he expects it will be at least a year before sod is turned, because the project still requires detailed designs and permits.

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