Irish firm touts luxury N.B. resort
By Nina Chiarelli
Times & Transcript Staff
Published Thursday April 5th, 2007
Appeared on page A1

It’s being billed as the quintessential New Brunswick resort, surrounded by ecologically pristine lands where nature is the designer and time is the architect.

Plans for the resort, to be located near Elgin just east of Sussex, include a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, a 150,000-square foot conference centre, a sports village that will host tennis, golf, soccer and swimming clinics, a breathtaking clubhouse with a fine dining restaurant, an on-site crèche for parents who want to make sure their kids are tended to, and two styles of homes for rent or purchase, according to brochures advertising the resort.

The only problem is Ann Collins, of Ann Collins Property Ltd. in Meath Country, Ireland is selling a concept to investors that doesn’t yet seem to have teeth.

The land this Quintessential resort, as it’s being billed, would be placed on isn’t owned by the developer.

In fact, the Dept. of Natural Resources has turned down the company several times in its bid to trade small parcels of land for a swath of 2,800 acres of Crown land.

And a local landowner Don Steeves who, with his brother owns 400 acres surrounded by the Crown land, isn’t selling.

"I have no intentions of selling because it was handed down for several generations and it means more to me than any development," Steeves said, adding his land will be divided between his four sons when he dies.

Steeves said he was told by the developers’ local agents that his property is key to the whole development, since its lush covering of old growth trees is practically void of rocky terrain, and it would be perfect for a golf course.

"That’s one reason they want it so bad. It’s easy to doze. It’s easy to develop, to put a road in. It’s a fantastic woodlot, really," he said.

Still, Ann Collins, of Ann Collins Property Limited in Meath County, Ireland is selling the concept to investors overseas.

"The Irish are buying property all over the world, and there’s so much going on with this resort," she said, from Ireland on Tuesday.

Collins described the planned resort as a typical holiday home, idea for Irish retirees.

The Province of New Brunswick itself wasn’t able to offer much information on the project even though several websites set up by the developers and by Collins’ real estate company would have investors believe the project is much father along.

Collins herself said construction could begin in as little as three weeks.

However, the Dept. of Environment said no permits have been issued and no applications filed in respect to building anything of the sort near Elgin.

Apparently three years ago this company was sniffing around and interested in this project," said spokesman Mike Wesson.

"Since then they’ve not made any further approaches to government. They haven’t formally applied for any environmental impact assessments and there are no permit applications in progress."

Business New Brunswick referred calls to Tourism New Brunswick. Since the proposal is private, and involves no government money, Tourism spokeswoman Danielle McFarlane said she could not speak to the project either.

"It’s a private sector development," she said. "I can’t confirm anything."

When contacted again, Business New Brunswick spokeswoman Sarah Ketcheson said her department has worked only to field basic inquiries by the company.

"They have not, however, come to us with any business plan, or any project. They have not made an official request," she said.

Frank Tenhave, executive director of Enterprise Fundy, an arm’s length government agency working on the project, was even less forthcoming.

"The details – I’m not at liberty to give you at this time. There will be an official announcement coming in the very near future," he said.

Although Tenhave works for an agency that is funded by taxpayer dollars, he refused any and all questions about the plan or land in question, and abruptly hung up on the Times & Transcript.

He was, notably, referred to by name as someone who could speak on the project by officials from two of New Brunswick’s provincial departments.

Extensive articles have been written in the Irish press about plans by the developer, Silver Maple Developments, to turn a huge swath of New Brunswick’s countryside into a world-class destination for well-to-do foreign retirees.

The e-brochure touting the project includes architectural drawings of the luxury three- and four-bedroom homes that will be available for rent or purchase on site.

Each home will feature a large deck with integrated hot tub, a double-height sitting room, and a master bedroom with a custom-designed wardrobe, ensuite shower room, and Jacuzzi-type bath.

The brains behind the venture, Saint John native Sheree King Gillchrist and her Irish partner Declan Campbell could not be reached for comment. Their New Brunswick solicitor, Allison Gerrish, listed by Business New Brunswick as a director of the company, also declined comment.
Donald Arsenault, Minister of Natural Resources, said it’s up to his department to accept any land trade.

"What we’re looking for, what we want to find is land that is of equal value or greater value," he said.

"They’ve come to our department with a couple of pieces of land that they are proposing. On many occasions we have refused."

Arsenault said the exchange has been ongoing for several months, to no avail.

"Not one has been satisfactory or to our liking so far," he said.

The brochure selling the resort showcases the best of New Brunswick’s tourism offerings, landscape, seasonal activities and regional amenities, while also showing pictures of polar bears and mentions of hot springs, of which there are none in Albert County.

"Quintessential will cater for families, couples, golf/sport enthusiasts, business groups and many more," the brochure says.

"Research into this project has been ongoing for the past four years. The developers have already expended a lot of resources to date on research, marketing and planning. Sheree and Declan are confident that they have assembled a very talented and motivated team of experts in all fields to make this development the best that it can be."

It also includes New Brunswick’s history as a haven for Irish settlers fleeing Ireland after the famine.

"The peaceful shores of New Brunswick have been a welcoming sight for hundreds of thousands of Irish immigrants who passed through Partridge Island during the famine years," it says, adding that Saint John is Canada’s most Irish city and celebrates its strong Irish heritage with a week-long St. Patrick’s music and entertainment festival.

The resort also includes the promise of a highly-touted Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course. Only those who own a property will qualify for golf course membership, and priority golf tee times will be given to owners and renters of a dwelling.

Julie Trimble, a spokeswoman with Nicklaus Company in Florida said there are no signed projects in New Brunswick at this time.