Why has the Wigamog clock stopped?

The state of the Pinestone Resort and Conference Centre, and the Wigamog Inn, now owned by the Aurora Group out of Vaughan, has been a concern for Haliburton County residents for some time now.

The Auroras purchased the Pinestone in 2015 and the Wigamog in 2016.

They announced some grand plans for both sites.

To date, very little, if anything, has been done.

In defence of the Auroras, Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts told The Highlander she’s sure it has been challenging times being in the hotel business these last few months.

We are certain it has. And, we applaud the Pinestone for opening its doors to frontline workers needing accommodation during the pandemic.

Aurora CEO Ravi Aurora did answer a couple of our emails, which we appreciate, since his head office has not responded to many of our queries in the past.

He said they were very busy dealing with COVID protocols and realigning business practices. They needed all the time they could get, so he couldn’t provide an update on the Pinestone, Wigamog, or County Road 21 gas station, car wash and fast food outlet they have talked about.

While we were happy to email him questions, he could answer at his leisure, or restrict a phone call to half-an-hour, he declined. However, he said he appreciated the community’s concerns, they deeply care for the community and the Pinestone and its involvement in the community. He encouraged us to reach out in September when things calm down a bit.

We certainly will, because while things have been tough for the hotel industry for the past six months or so, the Auroras have owned both properties for four to five years now. Whatever happened to opening the Moose Bar and Grill and some of the Wigamog Inn’s rooms by mid-summer 2016, for example?

In the interim, the inn has fallen into a state of disrepair such that it is highly unlikely it could be renovated. Maybe the eventual plan is to demolish it to make way for a planned housing development the Auroras are promising on their website. It’s hard to say, since the Auroras aren’t really talking.

In the meantime, those living around the former inn are faced with seeing what has become an eyesore over the past 10 years or so, since the property had been vacant for five years before the Auroras arrived on the scene.

It is strange to drive down Wigamog Road and see upscale developments such as Haliburton Heights and Silver Beach next to the Wigamog.

Some have also questioned the role of the municipality.

While the Wigamog is privately-owned, the municipality could take a more active role.

Perhaps someone there could press the Auroras for answers.

As for bylaw enforcement, it appears that has only been stepped up the past week or so because neighbours Keith and Julia Robertson are rocking the boat, and The Highlander is asking questions.

The Highlander paid a visit July 20 and observed some pretty disturbing things, including no fences, a lack of ‘no trespassing’ signs, a broken window, and a swimming pool with a busted fence, filled with stagnant water. It’s not only an eyesore, it’s dangerous. We shudder to think what would happen if there was a fire.

We encourage the Auroras to update the community in September, when they have more time. Even bad news, such as if they decided they were not proceeding with their development, is in some cases better than no news at all. And we urge Dysart Council to take a more proactive stance when it comes to developments of this nature in their domain. They shouldn’t wait for neighbour complaints or press questions to actively push for timely and good development in Dysart.

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