It was nearly five years ago – on Sept. 28, 2015, that the new owners of the Pinestone Resort and Conference Centre, and the Wigamog Inn, announced big plans for the development.
Ravi Aurora, of the Aurora Hotel Group, told Dysart et al council the family’s intentions, including investing $2 million into renovations, and adding a gas station, car wash, plaza and medical facilities on the property.
He said they wanted to create more jobs, not just at the Pinestone, but in other sectors. They also wanted to make the resort more welcoming to local residents.
There was talk of renovating the hotel’s lobby areas and restaurants, and expanding the ballroom to accommodate 500-600 people.
Aurora said he wanted it to be head office for his company and there was discussion about rebuilding the relationship between the resort and locals.
He presented sketches to councillors of the day, pointed out that the new additions were just concepts at the time. He added his design team worked hard to ensure the additions fit well with the surroundings.
Plans for the plaza included a financial institution and some sort of medical facilitiy not currently in Haliburton. The plaza and the other new enterprises were to be located on a section of land adjacent to County Road 21, the former home to Coneybeare Motors. There was even talk of a sculpture competition.
It was all supposed to happen in time for the resort’s 40th anniversary. In 2016.
While Pinestone remains a major employer in Haliburton County, the 2015 plans have gone virtually nowhere. There have not been major renovations at the resort. While the land was cleared for the promised gas station and mini-plaza, it remains empty. There’ve been complaints about the property at the Wigamog, where long grass grows untended, as the once stately inn falls into disrepair.
Unfortunately, the Aurora Hotel Group, has not reached out to the community to tell us what is going on. There are reports that despite the best intentions of general manager John Teljeur – who has brought the Canadian National Pond Hockey Championships and live entertainment to the resort pre-COVID-19, as well as housing for frontline medical staff – all is not well.
There have been guest complaints and grumbling among staff for years.
Now, the resort has come under fire from two of its former employees. One says she wasn’t reinstated after the COVID19 shutdown because she spoke to The Highlander about a late wage payment issue in March. Another says she has opted to not return because of the employment climate at the resort.
Unfortunately, the Aurora Hotel Group declines to talk about any of this. They are letting their relationship and reputation with locals go to seed.
It’s time Dysart et al council asked some questions about the future of the resort, and the inn, and what the Aurora Hotel Group’s intentions are now. It’s okay to hold their feet to the fire about promises made, and that remain unfulfilled, five years down the track.
The public would like to know.