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Council to hear concerns before making any decisions
The possibility of a hotel being built near a residential street, Red Cove Road near Cape Bonavista, is looming for many residents in the area who have concerns about a recent proposal to rezone the nearby area close to the ocean.
The reason for the application to rezone is a request to build a hotel at the end of the small lane, off the area known as Red Head.
Many of the citizens have taken to Facebook to voice their concerns, however, several have also written formal letters to speak out against the rezoning of the area, from “Open” to “Open Tourism.”
The area of Red Cove Road itself is “Mixed Use Residential,” but would hypothetically be the access road for the proposed rezoned area.
But people are also concerned that this could open the door to more development right on their doorstep — as long as it relates to tourism. This could mean more trails, recreation spaces, and camping lots or other types of accommodations. Under this type of zoning, all of these applications would be discretionary, requiring council’s approval.
Crystal Masters, a resident of Red Cove Road, is one of the people who doesn’t want to see something like this happen.
She told The Packet she initially thought the idea of a hotel at the end of her small residential street as purely “gossip.” But once she saw the discretionary notice for rezoning, she became concerned.
And aside from a large hotel, which would bring a busier, expanded street next to where her two young children play, she found that the rezoning itself was just as concerning.
She says the open space off Red Head is recreational for the residents in the area. It’s where they walk their dogs, kids play, berry pick, ride ATVs, and more.
“If that’s rezoned, it’s more or less taking our freedom away, that’s how I feel,” said Masters.
She also wonders if a hotel like this would have a bar.
“Is my property tax going to go up? (Or) if I wanted to move out of this area, who is actually going to want to move here in this area knowing what’s going to be done,” Masters said. “It’s a lot.”
Masters, along with many of the other residents on her street, say they have nothing against tourism in Bonavista, jobs created for local people or progress for the town — they’re just worried about the precedent this could set.
All voices will be heard
Bonavista Mayor John Norman told The Packet council is listening to all formal complaints in letter form for the rezoning issue. He also says this is only about rezoning and no decisions will be made about approving a hotel build as of yet.
“We absolutely will take their concerns into consideration (including) traffic, for example, on a residential road being one that’s already been brought forward by a number of concerned citizens, and any other issues that come up. (There’s) trail development in that area, the overall value of open space in Bonavista versus development,” says Norman.
“It’s all on the table. Council has made no decision, there have been no approvals.”
He adds they haven’t even seen a blueprint for the proposed hotel, council is merely advertising the request for a rezoning in the area — just as they would in any other situation with a similar request.
“This is the process we have to follow,” Norman said.
Regarding the rezoning from open space to open space tourism, the mayor further explained council has had discussions about the issue previously.
“Before this even came forward, (we’ve discussed) open space, green space, wetlands and so on in the community over the last couple of years because there seems to be more interest in developments in Bonavista these days. So we have to take these more seriously. It is a slippery slope.”
The next municipal council meeting falls on the same day as the deadline for comments on the rezoning process, Monday, Feb. 11. However, Norman assured that no final decisions to approve a rezoning would happen at that meeting.
He suggested that they’re seeing enough public outcry to warrant an open meeting to discuss the problems or support.
“We will have to give everyone the opportunity to come out and hear where we are in the process and to voice and further concerns.”
The Packet will provide more information as it becomes available.
Hotel owner also concerned about accommodations
Carl White is the owner of the Seaport Inn in Port Union. He was also concerned when he heard about the possibility of another large-scale hotel coming to the area.
The Seaport is a newly renovated building with 28 rooms and a restaurant. White says while he has some bookings filling up for this summer already, the off-season is a very slow time for them. The winter is supported by the restaurant and travelling teams, like local hockey tournaments, coming to the hotel.
He’s worried this could directly impact his business, especially if there’s not already a direct need for more accommodations in the area with several hotels in the Bonavista-Trinity Bay North area, and many bed and breakfasts and AirBnBs.
White also recognized that a big hotel might not be suitable right on the water in Bonavista — it doesn’t fit the authentic, heritage style they’ve made strides towards in recent years.
And as a result, White says he’s invested a lot of money into his hotel. He’s troubled to see the potential for this type of competition in new development near Cape Bonavista.
“Going into the future, maybe if we get the UNESCO Geopark status, we’ll see an influx (of tourists) from that and then a new hotel would be justified,” he said. “With that said, that’s only going to go four months of a year too (for tourists flocking to the area).”