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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Developers present new concept for year-round accommodations for Colchester

- Heritage Colchester receives non-for-profit status,

process to designate Schoolhouse started -

by Sylene Argent

At the Council meeting on Monday evening, developers James Flynn and Kim Lewis, of the Grove Hotel in Kingsville, made a presentation on their proposed development at the corner of Dunn and County Road 50 for what they are calling, “The Grove Motor Inn.”

  Previously, the developers approached Council about buying the Colchester Schoolhouse property, assuring their intention was to preserve and repurpose the original structure. In addition, what would have been an extension of the Grove Hotel was planned to house 14, one-bedroom individual cottage units that would be around 500 square foot a piece.

  After hearing concern from residents, Council asked the developers to hit the pause button on moving forward with plans at the January 18 meeting. At that time, the majority of Council voted in favour of asking potential developers of the site to give a deadline extension for the agreement to the end of March, originally set for the end of January.

  Since then, the developers decided to work on a new concept.

  “We feel every obstacle creates an opportunity, and while we were really disappointed with the Colchester Schoolhouse site, we wanted to demonstrate our commitment to the community,” Flynn said on Monday evening. The concerns raised over the Colchester [Schoolhouse] site, were very important to us. It allowed us to go away, think about the concerns that were raised, and come back with a larger, better site development for the area.”

  The developers are now proposing a two-story, year-round retro-style boutique motor inn, which he said will attract and accommodate guests visiting the area. It will have 25 rooms, be professionally managed by the Grove Hotel, and will also include four screened-in common areas.

  Flynn said he has been in contact with wineries and businesses in the area, and they have noted there is a need for year-round accommodations in that area. The motor inn will be designed to open visually to the south, to have as little impact as possible to residents to the north.

  “Rest assured, this motor inn will be bright, colourful, and all things Grove,” he said, adding it is a $3.4M investment and he estimates it will inject $1.5M annually into the Colchester community. It will be staffed and will be a direct extension of the Grove Hotel in Kingsville, he said.

  He said the developers feel the corner of Dunn and County Road 50 is the perfect location for the development.

  Councillor Kim Verbeek thanked the developers for sticking with the community, going back to the drawing table, and coming up with this plan. Several other Councillors thanked the developers, as well. Councillor Chris Vander Doelen added the proposed development is “cool.”

Kevin Girard, Director of Infrastructure, said the property will still have to go through Site Plan Control in order for the development to proceed. In addition, infrastructure studies will also be conducted to look at traffic and sewer needs. A rezoning application is also required, which includes public consultation.

  Mayor Larry Snively believes the development could be an anchor to attract businesses to Colchester.

  One of the individuals who spoke about wanting to keep the Colchester Schoolhouse a public asset earlier this year, Perry Basden, also spoke to Council on Monday evening.

  In January, he made his objections of declaring the Colchester School as surplus property known, and noted his intention was to form a committee to work on a plan for the facility.

  Since then, a committee, Heritage Colchester, was formed. Other achievements include obtaining non-for-profit status through the Ontario Historical Society. He received the news last Friday.

  The committee intends to pursue, if the Town of Essex allows, various stages of restoration for the Colchester Schoolhouse. For the first stage, the plan is to work with an architect.

  He said he found a wealth of information in the Colchester Landscape Master Plan regarding possible uses for the Colchester Schoolhouse, which committee members are looking into.

  He said the committee is still prepared to move forward to restore the Colchester Schoolhouse.

  What the Committee wants, he said, is for Council to support the concept that the Bagot Street and Sullivan street areas be declared as a Historical Centre for Colchester. The committee plans to try and move forward with having the use for the Colchester Schoolhouse be restored for public use and as a tourist attraction. This, he said, will relieve the Town of the cost involved for the restoration as Heritage Colchester can apply for grants and received donations in ways the Town cannot.

  Basden said it is hoped negotiations can happen between the Town of Essex and Heritage Colchester for the purpose of coming to an agreement that will be of mutual benefit to both parties.

  Councillor Joe Garon applauded the efforts of the Committee. He is optimistic at this point that the future of the schoolhouse is real and that there will be a new use that will materialize. He encouraged the group to continue working on the project.

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman said it is incredible what the Heritage Colchester committee has done so far. This is a dedicated group, sticking to their word that they would do the work, he said. “As a Town, we should get behind this,” he said.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen congratulated the group on obtaining the non-for-profit status. He asked about the process of declaring an area as an Historic Centre and wondered how it could affect tourism.

  Lori Chadwick, Director of Development Services, explained the process to designate an area as a Heritage District is in the Heritage Act, which includes consultation with a Heritage Committee and property owners within the area.

  She recommended Basden present the idea to the Town of Essex’s Heritage Committee first. As far as tourism, Chadwick said the land uses there are driven by and organized through the Town’s Official Plan, which will be reviewed in 2021.

  Council received the presentation and directed administration to meet with Heritage Colchester to start discussing different proposals, and also asked that the Town’s Essex Municipal Heritage Committee be brought into the conversation.

  Basden said he had signage in mind when thinking about the historical designation, which would point traffic to the cemetery, Christ Church, and Schoolhouse, but will certainly investigate the benefit of an actual Heritage Designation.

  Basden would also like to work with the Arts, Culture, and Tourism Committee for the tourism aspect, as well as arts and culture for possible uses for the schoolhouse at some point in time.

  Also on Monday evening, Council authorized the ‘Notice of Intention to Designate’ for the Colchester Schoolhouse.

  The Report to Council on the matter notes the Ontario Heritage Act establishes the criteria for determining cultural heritage value or interest. A property may be designated if it meets one or more of the following criteria: the property has design or physical value, the property has historical value or associate value, or the property has contextual value.

  In the Report to Council, it notes the Schoolhouse has design and physical value, because it was built in a Victorian vernacular style, as evidenced by its architectural features.

  The Schoolhouse has historical value, because it yields, or has the potential to yield, information that contributes to an understanding of the community and culture. The location of the Schoolhouse at 195 Bagot Street has contextual value, because it is important in defining the character of the area, is historically linked to its surroundings and is a local landmark, the Report to Council continues.

  The Essex Municipal Heritage Committee was presented with the statement of cultural heritage value and list of heritage attributes at its Thursday February 25 meeting. The Committee provided its support for the designation of 195 Bagot Street.

  A notice will be served on the Ontario Heritage Trust and published in the local newspapers.

  Designation does not prohibit the alteration of interior space or the continued use and enjoyment of the property and building for its present or future purpose as identified under the Town’s Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw, Bylaw 1037, the Report to Council adds.

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