PORT HARDY—Don Orr said he had no idea his plans to build a few cabins would create such an uproar within the North Island hospitality industry.
“I did anticipate some opposition, but not that much,” said the man who owns the five-acre Port Hardy RV Resort — the former Sunny Sanctuary — at 8080 Goodspeed Rd.
“Nobody wants to see more competition, but it’s just the nature of the beast.”
Several people got up to speak at a July 12 public hearing on the matter, before the regular District of Port Hardy council meeting, and many more wrote letters opposing the cabins.
Donna Harvey wrote in a letter to council that she and her partner have no trouble with a little competition.
“We just feel, at this time, Port Hardy has many accommodations that are not being utilized,” wrote Harvey who, with Dan Zimmerman, owns Ecoscape Cabins.
Harvey pointed to the abandoned and derelict Seagate Hotel as an example of what could happen if council does allow Orr to build the cabins.
“Some of the older hotels are just making it as it is and with 20 potential less rooms per night they could end up closing their doors and end up being another eye sore in our community.” But Orr said he doesn’t plan to build 20 cabins at once.
He originally put in a proposal to do 20 “middle of the road, nothing super fancy, nice little self-contained” cabins because he believed the district was asking how many he wanted to do overall.
“People were saying at the meeting I was immediately building 20 cabins and that it would devastate the economy, so I wanted to clarify I only wanted to do four to six at this particular time and see how things went — pretty simple, I thought.”” he said.
“If the need was there I’d build some more, but if the need wasn’t there for another two or three years, or if it never arrived, I wouldn’t build anymore.”
But Shannon Dayley, of Bear Cove Cottages Resort, said the addition of any extra rental accommodations would be “a great burden” on her business.
“In recent years Port Hardy’s hotel and B&B industry has been hit hard with the Queen of the North sinking in 2006 and the global economic crisis that we still face today,” she wrote in a letter to Port Hardy council.
“We do realize it is every person’s right to prosper and have success (but) in this case there simply seems to be too many businesses and livelihoods at stakes.”
Karl Thomas, of the Quarterdeck Resort, agreed and said competition is the last thing Port Hardy’s hospitality industry needs right now.
“We feel Port Hardy has enough accommodations to serve our current market,” he also wrote in a letter to Port Hardy council.
“Although it is good to see the town attracting local investment, this particular area of business is at capacity already.”
And Tony Choi of the Airport Inn said it doesn’t make sense to add new rooms for rent.
“In the past six years we have seen a decrease in summer BC Ferry traffic, sports fishermen as well as tour operators,” he wrote.
“With the economic downturn we are seeing less business travellers and meeting attendees to fill our rooms. It is our opinion that this would be detrimental for all accommodations in Port Hardy.”
The land is currently zoned Tourist Commercial, T-1 with a commercial land use designation.
Orr said he applied, at the urging of District staff, to apply for a rezone to C-3, which allows campgrounds combined with hotels or motels.
“All I wanted to do was put in a couple of cabins, but was told the zoning wasn’t right,” said Orr, who also owns Port McNeill’s Black Bear Resort, a 40-room resort and spa.
“So they said well, we’ll change it to C-3.”
But at the July 12 meeting, council decided to toss all that and look at rezoning as an amended T-1 to include cabins, motels and hotels.
“(Council) wanted to put all the tourist stuff into the tourist commercial, which makes sense to me,” said Orr.