Members of SORE (Save Our Rand Estate) have reacted to the latest drawing of a hotel proposed for two historic John Street East properties.
Benny Marotta of Two Sisters Resorts has released a drawing that shows a revised proposal — the third design he has offered — for the hotel and conference centre he plans to build on the two John Street properties, incorporating the historic Randwood and the Devonian House.
He appealed his original application to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, having failed to receive a decision from the Town within the allotted time, and that is where the hotel proposal remains.
Marotta says he has contacted the Town, hoping for a meeting to review his latest proposal, “and come to a solution.” The elevation is different than in the last application, he says. This one is for five storeys, “which complies with the 2011 bylaw in height.” The last two have been for a six-storey hotel, which required an amendment to the 2011 bylaw that allowed for five storeys.
He would still need an amendment for a “small increase” in rooms, he says. His last proposal was for a total of 118 rooms, 107 in the new building, as well as some rooms in the Devonian House and the main Rand building. Now he says he is planning 138 rooms in the new building, and none in the others.
He says he would like to work with the Town on this latest plan, but they have failed to respond to his request for a meeting. They are “forcing us to go to the board,” he said of his appeal to LPAT.
Lyle Hall, SORE spokesperson, says his group isn’t being swayed by “a couple of pretty pictures.”
SORE has seen no details to go with them, and without more information about issues such as the number of parking spots and restaurant seats, “it’s too soon to make an informed decision.”
He says SORE members are more concerned with the impact the development will have on the surrounding community than what they can see from the photos.
“The last thing SORE wants to do is be the aesthetics police,” he says. “We’re concerned about the mass, scale, traffic, parking — a list of details that are not generated by these photos.”
While height has been a main concern, SORE is not convinced the five-storey hotel in the drawing will necessarily meet the 2011 bylaw, which was vague, Hall says.
“The height depends on where you measure it from,” he says, suggesting whether or not Marotta’s newest proposal meets the bylaw depends on its interpretation.
Two Sisters lawyer Michael Melling has weighed in on that, in a letter to local papers, saying “a simple check with the town clerk or planning department would have confirmed that our clients didn’t just file a picture. They filed a full set of architectural drawings and a site plan.”
Further, Melling says, “the proposed building meets the height requirement in the Romance Inn zoning bylaw.”
There are other questions SORE would like the answers to. “There is insufficient detail on the table to go with the picture that would allow us to make an informed decision on whether this is better or worse than before,” says Hall.
In response to Melling’s comments, Lord Mayor Betty Disero said, “Mr. Melling should know what is required for a complete application.”
There is an update coming soon from the Town’s legal department, she added, “and I cannot comment until we have met with them.”