A Hamilton Conservation Authority banquet centre in the Dundas Valley that has been a periodic source of public controversies is being recommended for demolition because it’s become too expensive to maintain.
Maplewood Hall – formerly known as the Resource Management Centre – needs $560,500 in upgrades to just meet regulatory standards, according to a staff report to be presented to an authority advisory board this evening.
That’s nearly eight times the $73,800 profit the centre has generated over the past 10 years. The report recommends the 95-year-old building be torn down and its Artaban Road property be allowed to return to nature at an estimated bill of $138,000.
“We’re just telling them there isn’t money to be made here. If you’re going to save it, it’s going to cost us money not only upgrade it, but breaking even will be a good year,” land management director Tony Horvat said.
“It’s $10,000 a year just to maintain the road,” he said, calling the septic-tile sewage system among the biggest issues. “It doesn’t meet current standards, and if you’re going to run the facility to try to make a profit, you need to deal with the sewage.”
Maplewood Hall began as a Dundas Lions Club summer camp in 1918, a role it served until 1948, when it was purchased by the Anglican Diocese and renamed Camp Artaban, according to a history in the staff report.
The authority bought the camp in 1968 and it served as a base for outdoor education for 168,000 students between 1970 and 1993, a period during which renovations doubled the size of its assembly hall, renamed the Resource Management Centre.
Provincial funding cuts closed the centre in 1994, leading to two controversial proposals that were abandoned in the face of vehement public opposition.
The first involved a private leaser who wanted to reinvent the site as a yoga centre and sought a $2.5-million expansion in 1997 to provide overnight accommodations for up to 30 guests.
While the Niagara Escarpment Commission issued a permit the following year, the authority withdrew its support due to “a concerted opposition effort by local residents,” the report notes.
Later the same year, Tapley Binet private school in Ancaster proposed to move to the centre, a plan that would have brought 140 students and 15 students to the site on weekdays.
While the authority approved a five-year lease in February 1999, the Town of Ancaster ruled that the proposal required a zoning amendment and upgrades to the centre’s water supply and sewage system.
The following year, the NEC issued a permit for a school of up to 70 students, but fierce public opposition led Ancaster town council to oppose both the zoning change and NEC permit. The authority decided to respect the town’s wishes, killing the plan.
In 2003, the centre was reopened as Maplewood Hall and marketed for weddings, banquets and other meetings, but it has generated marginal profits since then and has not been rented in the past year.
In support of returning the site to nature, the staff report notes the area provides good or excellent habitat for a range of rare, regionally significant and at-risk species, including the Jefferson’s salamander, pickerel frog, northern ringneck snake, three types of hawks and the red-bellied woodpecker.