At their meeting on April 20, Limerick Township council discussed and approved the zoning amendment bylaw for the Old Schoolhouse property in Ormsby, changing it from Urban Commercial to Marginal Agricultural. The new owners, Art and Karen Henkel want to turn it into a boutique retreat rental and personal family accommodation for four to six weeks a year, and they expect it to be open to the public sometime in the late fall.
The Henkels spoke with Limerick council about their new initiative and requested the rezoning of the property at the March 18 planning committee meeting via Zoom, from UC to MA. They said they plan to use the building for four to six weeks every year for their family vacations and then rent it out as a wellness retreat for up to six guests at a time for the rest of the year. They intend to call their new venture Recess 3, giving a nod to the building’s past, as an historic schoolhouse and its three uses (schoolhouse, tearoom and wellness retreat) over the years since it first opened in 1921.
The Henkels intend to preserve the unique appearance and heritage of the building and refresh it in that spirit. They plan to renovate the building inside by building two bedrooms, creating a defined living space, updating the washroom and kitchen and creating a display inside the building that conveys its unique history. They’ll enhance the property outside by having a fire pit/lounge area, a contemplation area and an outdoor sauna. They assured council that they plan to honour the heritage of the property and the area with their renovations.
If all goes well, Art Henkel thought they'd start their renovations in the summer and open up in the late fall, although he said they’re not on any tight schedule.
Mayor Carl Stefanski introduced the zoning bylaw amendment 2022-014 at the April 20 meeting. Council had suggested looking into getting an historical designation for the building at the March 18 meeting, but Tisdale revealed at the April 20 meeting that the Henkels would not be allowed to modify the interior of the Old Schoolhouse if that were to happen. This would not work for them as they had plans to change the interior, including making the building wheelchair accessible.
Councillor Ingo Weise said that he thought there might be grant funding opportunities available to the Henkels for a heritage building like the Old Schoolhouse, even if it did not have an historical designation. Although the township can keep them apprised of any opportunities in that regard, they would need to look into it and apply themselves.
The zoning amendment for the Old Schoolhouse property, from urban commercial to marginal agricultural, was ultimately passed by council, and Tisdale reaffirmed that council was very supportive of the Henkels’ efforts by email to The Bancroft Times on April 20.
“For grant opportunities, [the Henkels] would have to undertake them on their own accord. The municipality can direct them where to look, but we cannot apply for them as it is privately owned.”
Art Henkel thought it was great news about the council’s decision to approve the property’s rezoning.
“At this time, we continue to draw up our plans for moving ahead while waiting for any feedback the community may have over the next 20-day period, which is customary,” he says. “This could be a very exciting and creative spring for us!”
Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times