James Bailie and Janet Whittle-Bailie spoke about their plans for what's currently billed as Hotelle @ Crockers Cove. The couple is calling it a luxury boutique hotel, with a curved design offering a panoramic view of the ocean from every room.
Whittle-Bailie, who lives with her husband in Ontario and is originally from Newfoundland, said they were driving through Freshwater a-year-and-a-half ago and noticed Crocker's Cove Point as they were coming into Carbonear.
The couple initially thought of building a house on the land, but after learning about the substantial cost of building a road to access a residential property on the point, the conversation shifted to creating a business opportunity.
In order to permit a hotel development on Crocker's Cove Point, the town would need to approve an amendment to the municipal plan to rezone the couple's private land from conservation to medium-density residential. Then, the town would also need to make hotels a permitted use of land for that zoning.
Currently, the town is looking at a proposal to rezone a 2.97-acre area, with the initial design for the hotel placing it in the middle of that property. However, Whittle-Bailie indicated they would be agreeable to moving it further inland to almost the edge of the conservation area in question. The couple has since purchased an adjoining acre of residential land west of the area zoned conservation.
"We actually just drove (to) the property again today, and we're OK with shifting that back a little bit as well to the west side," she said, later adding they want to protect the area zoned for conservation and make it a part of the hotel experience for guests.
"We don't want people to feel like they can't come there and see the view anymore — we want to encourage it," James Bailie told The Compass after the meeting.
Coun. David Kennedy, who chairs the town's planning and development committee, also mentioned in the meeting council can come back to the developers with a request to decrease the amount of land rezoned if it so chooses. He also stated explicitly the hotel "is not a done deal."
The proposed hotel would consist of 50 rooms on three levels and feature a restaurant, espresso bar, lobby bar, conference centre and art gallery. The building's footprint would be approximately 50,000 square feet.
Whittle-Bailie indicated the cost of a room would not be in the same ballpark as what's charged at the internationally-renowned Fogo Island Inn, where rates start at $1,675 a night.
The exterior would include a heated staircase to access the rooftop lookouts and garden terraces. It would employ 45-50 people, and Whittle-Bailie added they would be interested in partnering with Newfoundland companies to create branded products for guests, such as spirits, water and toiletries. The proponents are also looking at providing shuttle service to St. John's International Airport and to sites in Carbonear.
Following the presentation from Bailie and Whittle-Bailie, the focus of the meeting shifted to residents, of which approximately 60 were on hand at the Conception Bay Regional Community Centre. There were almost an equal number of speakers expressing either support or skepticism about the proposal.
One man from Crocker's Cove who lives next to the proposed site for development raised concerns about using Burnt Head Road for buses. He also suggested accessing the property could prove problematic, and later brought up the area's historical interest and archaeological significance.
Kennedy acknowledged provincial government archaeologists might show an interest in the site if the town's proposed amendments come to the province for review.
If the town grants approval, the provincial government must review the amendments, with multiple departments having an opportunity to weigh in with their expertise. It would then come back to the town, with the public getting a further opportunity at this point to give their two cents to council before a final vote on the amendments takes place.
Others expressed concern about the appropriateness of the location for a hotel, but there were also multiple residents who spoke favourably about the proposal, suggesting it would be great for the economy and create business opportunities for others in the area.
Bailie and Whittle-Bailie hope to have all the necessary government approvals in place within the next six months, and do not intend to engage in further architectural work until that process concludes. They're looking for construction to start next spring, with the hope then to be ready to open in 2020.