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Potential Bonavista hotel entrepreneur frustrated with council deliberating

An elevation view of the front and rear of the proposed “Cliff Hotel.”
CONTRIBUTED IMAGE
An elevation view of the front and rear of the proposed “Cliff Hotel.” CONTRIBUTED IMAGE - Contributed

Michael Earle says ‘Cliff Hotel’ a great opportunity, town says it needs more info

BONAVISTA, N.L. —

Those behind the proposed Cliff Hotel in Bonavista want residents to know exactly what their council is voting on when it decides to say “yes or no" to the proposed accommodations business in the community.

Entrepreneur Michael Earle is behind the potential hotel — hoped to be located in the Red Head area at the end of Red Cove Road. He represents his investment partners in the project.

“If you want to be successful in a business venture, you need to find a need and fill the need,” said Earle told The Packet. “And analyzing what we have in this town and the history of this town and the potential of this town, what it greatly lacked was a place, like an anchor in a retail mall, an anchor to bring a constant flow of revenue to this town.”

He says he’s been planning his high end, 50-room hotel for the last two years to draw more people to Bonavista, but has struggled with finalizing the plans to begin construction for the past 10 months.

Earle says what makes it more frustrating is that last year, everything looked good to go for the hotel.

According to his correspondence with council, he had an approval in principle from council to acquire the Crown land at Red Head and continue developing the business.

However, after Municipal Affairs denied his land application in December, because it needed to be rezoned, the process hit a snag.

Bonavista Mayor John Norman and town manager David Hiscock told The Packet the initial decision in November to approve the process was to begin the rezoning application.

Since then, there have been concerns which have caused them to delay making a zoning decision.

Over the winter, some local residents objected to the possibility of a rezoning in the area to make way for the hotel, which has prolonged the process.

Their complaints ranged from the increased traffic on a narrow residential street, and taking away natural, open space.

Bonavista council consulted Municipal Affairs for a recommendation in the spring.

While Municipal Affairs gave the go-ahead for council to either approve or deny the rezoning application at its discretion, it has yet to make a decision.

Norman has previously told The Packet there will likely be a public consultation for discussion with residents before council votes.

The layout in the Red Cove area, including a park and walking track. CONTRIBUTED IMAGE
The layout in the Red Cove area, including a park and walking track. CONTRIBUTED IMAGE

Council told Earle he needed to provide more detailed architectural designs — to scale, including sightlines — as well answer concerns for a waste disposal system. They cite possible limitations with the town’s legal capacity for effluent waste in the future.

Such a large facility would bring the usage of the outflow in that area of the town in the high-90 per cent rate, severely limiting any other potential development in the future — both residential and commercial.

Most recently, Earle informed council he would concede in providing the town with a full set of architectural drawings and cover the cost of wastewater treatment facility for the town’s third outflow area.

“Essentially, they’re causing me to put the cart so far before the horse, that I have to get another cart to get to the current cart. This was done.”

Frustrated with having to make the decision to invest so much with what he perceives as little assurance from council, Earle says he’s left with no other choice.

However, Norman says he estimates a new water treatment facility would cost as much as $2.5 million just for that area.

“That’s just the capital cost,” said Norman. “The town then has to pay for the year-over-year maintenance and operation of that site in the future. Right now, we’re well below what the limit would be for that neighbourhood. Without this development, we don’t require it.”

He adds that he would also be interested in seeing a full, tangible feasibility plan for the business as well.

Earle says this project has the potential to provide employment for 40 full-time people, year round.

“That’s probably even higher in peak season,” he says.

He also stressed the new resources the development can bring to the town — including a full, indoor public pool for anyone wishing to use it.

The proposed park area and mini-golf facility is separate from the hotel itself, but Earle says it would rehabilitate the old, unused gravel pit on the land.

“It’s there as a ‘give-back.’ It creates jobs because my desire is to have that run by students.”

He also says council itself should stand to benefit greatly from the business.

“The (business’ municipal) tax (contribution) is $236,000 a year. I would be the highest tax base in this town,” says Earle.

“This is the largest (non-industrial) project to touch Bonavista…the whole peninsula will benefit from this. Not everyone wants to stay in a B&B or motel.”

Council taking cautious approach

While Earle awaits a decision on the rezoning, council is being cautious with the decision.

Norman and Hiscock told The Packet there are a host of issues they’re looking at before making a decision to leave the zoning as is, or change it.

The water and sewer issue is the most prominent of the reasons for further examination, but they’d also like to know more about the sustainability of a facility like this going forward.

“The main one for us is the infrastructure,” said Norman.

Hiscock says they want to know — in more certain terms, what the hotel will be.

“My biggest concern is at the end of the day, I would like to see some sort of consultant figures or projection on what the feasibility is,” he said. This uncertainty is a reason for their request for more information regarding engineering details and business plans for the project.

Regarding the tax revenue benefits and employment in the community, Norman says they want documented projections quantifying everything the hotel will be. He adds there is a value in open space and they may not want to rush into development.

“With more attention on Bonavista and more business developing, there are more residents coming to council talking about, ‘What about open space in Bonavista?’” says Norman.

“’What about protecting more of these spaces?’ You’ve got your stewardship zones, you’ve got your trail area — well, what about some of these other spaces? We want them kept open in perpetuity.

“Not all development is good development. That’s a new type of thinking for a rural area. Bonavista’s gotten to where it’s gotten with smart, strategic, sustainable community development that means something to the community and to the people.”

Upcoming, Earle says he’s providing more blueprints and information for council, along with an offer for water and sewer, and the future of the hotel depends entirely on the rezoning vote.

Jonathan.parsons@thepacket.ca

Twitter: @jejparsons

The first floor design features a public pool, complete with separate entrance. CONTRIBUTED IMAGE
The first floor design features a public pool, complete with separate entrance. CONTRIBUTED IMAGE

According to entrepreneur Michael Earle, the six-storey Cliff Hotel is planned to have many features:

• 50 rooms;

• Restaurant;

• Café’

• Conference space;

• A public pool for everyone in the community;

• Helicopter pad;

• Separate community park and mini-golf area;

• Walking trail;

• And more.

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