Over the years, I have watched County Council vote on many issues. The vote by nine councillors to defer Hillier Creek Winery’s request to alter its zoning to enable it to host weddings and special events in their reconstructed barn was very perplexing to me.
When the application went before a committee of council last week, former councillor Peggy Burris, some neighbours and the local Federation of Agriculture urged council to turn it down. Peggy Burris asked how long before natural farming is impacted by Hiller Creek Estates.
The fact I found extremely troubling in that 100 minute meeting was that not one councillor asked Hillier Creek Estates owner Kemp Stewart one question about the number of jobs (20) that HCW had created or made mention of the winery’s contribution to the tax base and the community. Not one.
The nine councillors chose to defer the request even though Hillier Creek Estate’s application meets all the planning tests – provincial policy statements and the County’s official plan. In the four years that the winery has operated there has not been one complaint to the municipality. If council does reject the application they will most likely be subjected to a very expensive appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board.
By deferring the application, council has temporarily put an immediate stop to any future events in the barn at HCE. This has to be extremely disappointing to anyone who has planned special events such as weddings and anniversaries. Amber and Kemp Stewart have also offered their winery as a venue for the Grapes of Wrath extreme endurance event taking place in September. This event is in support of the Canadian Cancer Society, Trenton and PECMH Foundations to purchase much needed medical equipment. I suspect that the event will have to be cancelled or held elsewhere even though 120 participants have already registered. Recently HCW hosted a fundraising dinner for Wounded Warriors Canada – helping to raise $35,000 for Canada’s ex military servicemen and women.
Some of you may not be aware but one of the owners of the winery is local physcian Dr. Amber Hayward Stewart. She took over Dr. Ken Eccles practice about three years ago and when Drs. Forester and Lett left the County due to the many service cuts by QHC at PECM hospital last summer, Amber absorbed 800 patients into her already busy practice.
She also works many shifts in Picton and Trenton hospital emergency departments and is head of emergency in Trenton. We are fortunate to have such a competent and experienced emergency room physician. She has a great rapport with staff and she and her husband Kemp are generous in hosting hospital staff functions. I wish County council had been half as vocal as Amber in challenging Quinte Healthcare with respect to the numerous service and bed cuts that took place at our local hospital.
I write about the Hillier Creek Winery application deferrel and Amber’s role in the County’s medical community in the same letter to make a point that Amber and Kemp Stewart have given back to this community in spades and the County Council did not even have the courtesy to address the fact that they had created 20 much needed jobs in this County with more to come if the application had been approved. I believe that this is a community that helps each other.
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