Opinion: Casablanca project positive, but beware

By Mike Williscraft

It was a warm and fuzzy meeting for the Casablanca Inn open house last week when nary a member of the public wound up being part of the question and answer process.

The project is massive. In the past, it drew capacity crowds and tons of comments.

Unlike many projects which have rolled through and over the Town, in some respects, The Rosseau Group has adjusted to wants and needs of town staff and the community with relative ease.

I say “ease” but to pull back and completely reinvent their approach was not easy, and it was undoubtedly costly, but given the general feel of last week’s Zoom discussion, it was worth every penny.

For me, there were two key things.

Consultant Martin Quarcoopome noted for those on the call that, while deficient on the face of the proposal at the meeting, the developer will up the parking count of 909 by 36 additional spots. Yes, it was odd to see a developer offer to do this with next-to-no objection.

Then the penny dropped.

“What we did was, we based our required parking for our proposal on the rates that were approved for the neighbouring 10 Windward site. That’s how we came to our number,” explained Quarcoopome.

Ah, good ol’ “previous council”….raising their collective ugly heads once again. Yes, as do I, you likely despise hearing that either as a crutch when something is currently amiss or as an excuse when something bad is about to happen. There are times when it is 100 per cent attributable to the more than development friendly posture taken with virtually every project which came to town.

At the time I noted the precedents set by underservicing parking at all the Winston Road projects would come back to haunt both the business and residential sectors in that area. The area is still far from built out and we hear regular horror stories of cars parked where they should not be and residents parking in commercial spots to get off the roads.

It will only get worse.

The Casablanca project has many positives, but some dangerous potholes await council and the community.

To use any other development in the area as a baseline is simply folly. None of them are up to snuff when it comes to parking standards, so why would you measure yourself to inadequate parking levels. With such a great project, and it really will be super cool and exciting to see, why set yourself up for failure?

Please, please, please Mr. Quarcoopome and Mr. Mehlenbacher (the man behind The Rosseau Group) take a look at what you REALLY need and get that done. I bet if you put in an extra 100 you could sell them for $15,000 or $20,000 each to people in other complexes who have no place to park.

The second key aspect, for which it is noted there were many ways to guarantee its preservation, is the maintaining of the hotel on the site.

Council should note the hotel was an approved non-conforming use for the land on which it sits. At the time, Grimsby – and the whole west end – was desperate for overnight accommodations at the time. It made sense to not only allow the use, but encourage it. Same thing goes now.

It was noted COVID impacts have been nasty to the hotel industry. Absolutely!

It could be easy for the hotel to show up in plans then, when approved, the whole thing gets converted to condos and the Town ends up a big loser, again.

So, there are ways for council to protect this key resource for the town and they need to en garde.

For issues with that project, those are the keys for me. It is crazy to think all of downtown has about 1,100 parking spaces – with a only a small portion of those being on public property – and this development alone will have at least 945….gives one some perspective of its scope.

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You will note a fundraiser for Niagara West food banks is promoted in this edition as we work with the good folks at Eggspectation to give a helping hand at a time when need is increased.

Saturday, Oct. 10 will be the kick-off of the first of three pancake breakfasts with proceeds going to Grimsby Benevolent Fund. All COVID protocols and social distancing will be adhered to, so drop by and help if you can.

A grand opening ceremony will be part of the launch event at 10 a.m. See you there.

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