RED application to address Blyth accommodation needs - April 6, 2017
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
North Huron and the Blyth BIA have jointly filed an application to fund an accommodation feasibility study for the Village of Blyth.
The application, which has been filed through the provincial government’s Rural Economic Development (RED) Program, will assess the need for further accommodation by way of hotel rooms in the village during a period of “unprecedented economic growth” due to the renovation of Memorial Hall and the construction of Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company and the Canadian Centre for Rural Creativity (CCRC), according to the application summary.
The application is expected to cost approximately $15,000 and seeks funding to cover 50 per cent of the cost. It was filed just before the 5 p.m. deadline on Friday, March 31.
“These three key projects will result in several more visitors to Blyth throughout the year. The drastic increase in visitor traffic will require that the village have ample overnight accommodation available to guests,” states the application’s summary. “In an effort to encourage and attract hotel development in Blyth, North Huron has deemed it necessary to conduct a hotel feasibility study for potential investors.”
The application was first presented to North Huron Council at its March 27 budget meeting. Chief Administrative Officer Sharon Chambers spoke to the application and North Huron’s potential role in the process.
Chambers told council that she had been approached by members of the Blyth business community in regards to filing the application. She said that while a specific stream of RED funding seemed perfect for an accommodation feasibility study, private companies were ineligible for the funding under the municipal planning stream, so the company asked that the township partner on the application.
She said the need for further accommodation has been clear in Blyth for years, whether it’s for tourists or those coming to work for a seasonal company like the Blyth Festival. Existing accommodation and billeting options will only be spread even thinner as a result of the ongoing development.
“We know that we have a large tourism-based business that is building on the fringe [of Blyth] and that is going to impact Blyth. We know we have the CCRC and that’s going to impact Blyth and we have the renovation of Memorial Hall,” Chambers told councillors at the meeting. “There is a lot of activity going on there and the reality is those things are going to happen this summer and are we ready? Probably not.”
Chambers spoke about both the accommodation feasibility study and perhaps an urban expansion study that would address further development on the fringes of the village, saying that the second study could cost substantially more, citing a range of $50,000-$75,000.
At the March 28 meeting of Central Huron Council, the issue was discussed further, but council opted to pen a letter of support for the application, but not serve as its co-applicant.
It was recommended by Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) staff that North Huron secure a second applicant before the March 31 deadline. The Blyth BIA volunteered as a co-applicant, which was due to be finalized at the April 5 meeting.
The accommodation feasibility study funding application was submitted by the March 31 deadline and a response is anticipated later this summer or in early fall.