Councillors at last Tuesday’s planning meeting voted to approve zoning for a four-bedroom rooming house aka a luxury inn on St. George Street near downtown but deferred decision on allowing turning a garage into a retail store.
By David Judd
A luxury inn is coming to downtown St. George Street.
The Dover George will rent four bedrooms in a 130-year-old house to be renovated at 323 St. George St.
The location is next door to Knox Presbyterian Church and across the street from the entrance to the municipal parking lot behind the Elmer Lewis Parkette.
Above: The present house on St. George Street near Chapman Street West that will become “The Dover George”.
According to Norfolk’s zoning bylaw, the business will be a four-bedroom rooming house.
But owners Helene Larochelle and Michael Nimchuk are branding the Dover George as “boutique accommodations” in a luxury inn with a high level of service and attention to detail.
County councillors tentatively approved zoning for the project last Tuesday.
They were expected to confirm their decision last night.
The Dover George hopes to open by next Christmas or definitely by summer 2021, Ms. Larochelle said in an interview.
Councillors refused to consider a request to convert a garage on the Dover George property into a retail store or a one-bedroom dwelling.
The county is currently not considering developments that would put more demand on Port Dover’s municipal water supply.
A store would require a washroom, which the current garage does not have.
The Dover George inn is permitted to go ahead because it already has water capacity.
Neighbours expressed concerns about potential parking and traffic problems at a county planning meeting last Tuesday.
They also wondered about noise and the appropriateness of allowing a store in what is now a residential area.
The Dover George inn will help address a shortage in tourist accommodation, Ms. Larochelle told councillors.
Zoning for a rooming house will allow its owners to live elsewhere.
Ms. Larochelle and Mr. Nimchuk currently live seven minutes away on St. John’s Road East.
The couple have experience in renovating older buildings in Toronto into luxury properties.
They moved to Port Dover 18 months ago and bought the St. George Street property last December.
Ms. Larochelle rejected neighbours’ concerns that the Dover George might become a drug den, flop house, cannabis store or adult toy store.
She said the property’s four parking spaces would be adequate for the inn.
And she said a study for Norfolk’s police services board found no problem with traffic on St. George Street.
Events might include workshops or classes that would appeal to tourists and residents, Ms. Larochelle said.
The Dover George also might host groups for birthdays, anniversaries or showers.
Ms. Larochelle and Mr. Nimchuk will proceed with the inn project while they wait to see if council will allow converting the garage into a store, the couple told reporters.
The couple came to Port Dover as an escape from Toronto where Ms. Larochelle had a background in public relations and Mr. Nimchuk had a background as a mechanical engineer.
They bought a home on a hill on St. John’s Road East, near Blueline Road and the Lynn River.
The couple so far have invested more than $1 million in their home, the St. George Street property and other projects in the area, Mr. Nimchuk said.
Their proposed retail store, Buy George, would sell local art, housewares and gifts.
Ms. Larochelle said she was disappointed by negative comments about their St. George Street proposals.
Speaking on behalf of neighbours George and Donna Morris of 319 St. George St., lawyer Albert Smelko said a rooming house and store would be a disturbing precedent.
Mr. Smelko said downtown has parking and traffic problems.
He asked what the consequences would be of more cars and people on St. George Street.
Giulio Sciascia of 19 Chapman St. W. said it’s dangerous for vehicles to back onto the street.
He opposed converting the garage into a store or living area.
“It’s just going to grow,” he said.
Andrea Milner, who looks after family property on Chapman Street, asked what a store might offer for sale.
“What is so unique that a neighbourhood has to be turned upside down?” she asked.