PELEE ISLAND, ONTARIO
Pelee Island could soon experience a growth spurt.
An Avon developer is planning to build a $300 million development on the Canadian Lake Erie island that includes residential housing, two golf courses and a 450-slip marina.
The 20-year plan features 3,000 residential units including condominiums, townhouses and apartments as well as 36 holes of golf on the south end of the island.
The project is tentatively named Laguna Harbour and could create 435 seasonal jobs and 146 off-season jobs.
Pelee Township Chief Administrative Officer Mike Galloway said the project has been well-received by the island's 275 permanent residents.
"The residents' feedback to our official plan has been very positive," Galloway said. "Tourism drives your business. For this island to be sustainable in the future, it requires a tourist attraction, which is potentially this development."
Peter Restivo Jr., the Avon developer, was not available for comment, but George Paisiovich, president of Stakeholders Solutions, which handles communications for him, said Restivo is excited to begin the project.
"I would say that this is Mr. Restivo's legacy project," Paisiovich said. "They take it very personally and are very proud with what they could achieve. When you sort of get this thing going, it will be hard to top."
Galloway said the residents had a public meeting last month to comment on the plan. Before plans can move forward, it has to be approved by the township council and several provincial ministries -- municipal affairs, environment and natural resources.
"We have a fairly clean slate to start with," Galloway said. "Pelee Island is not as developed as some of the other islands in the Lake Erie basin."
The 10,000-acre island is the largest island in Lake Erie and is the southernmost populated point in Canada. The development would cover 500-600 acres, yet would not hurt the island's natural landscape that includes 30 percent tree cover, Galloway said.
"I think there's a fine balance between mixing our economic sustainability and protecting what's made this island an attraction for eco-tourists," Galloway said.
"We believe there are ways to co-exist with nature quite nicely," Paisiovich said. "And that's something we want to exemplify."
The project is expected to break ground in 2009, but the plans are still in the early stages.
"There has been a lot of work done, but until there's a shovel in the ground it's just a concept," Galloway said.
Restivo helped develop the Red Tail Golf Club in Avon, which offers residential housing and an 18-hole golf course.
According to The Windsor Star newspaper, the developer doesn't want his plans for the resort tarnished by a misdemeanor ethics violation to which he he pleaded guilty in 2000. The paper reported he was accused of bribing the president of Avon City Council because his company leased $60,000 worth of equipment from the council president's business the day after the council member voted for a project.
According to the paper, Restivo said he didn't seek any favors and it was a learning experience. He was fined $1,000 and required to perform 200 hours of community service for the ethics violation, the Star reported.