Cabot Links eyes protected beach for golf course expansion

The owners of Cabot Links want to build on more protected beach land for their second course in Inverness.

Environmentalists criticize Beaches Act violation

Golf Magazine calls Cabot Links one of the top 100 courses in the world. (Cabot Links)

The owners of Cabot Links want to build on more protected beach land for their second course in Inverness, according to the Nova Scotia government.

The new course under construction called Cabot Cliffs would encroach on 1.1 hectares of land designated under the Beaches Act.

The Department of Natural Resources said the province and the course owners are working on a letter of authority that will include terms and conditions attached to the development.

"They have some ideas that we're still working through," said Harold Carroll, the director of parks and recreation for DNR.

"It's still a discussion ongoing until such time as everything gets signed off."

The links course, designed by Rod Whitman, has enjoyed rave reviews from golfers. Its virtues have been extolled in some of the biggest newspapers and golf journals in the world. Golf Magazine calls Cabot Links one of the top 100 courses in the world.

No reparation deal

But the development has also faced sharp criticism from environmentalists for building part of the first course on land designated under the Beaches Act.

Last year, the government investigated and found part of a tee box and fairway encroached on beach lands. The area was less than half a hectare.

The violation was confirmed in a letter from the Department of Natural Resources to the Margaree Environmental Association in March.

"Department enforcement officers have consulted the public prosecution office and charges will not be moving forward in relation to this incident," wrote Deputy Minister Duff Montgomerie.

"As for the continued operation of the golf course on the designated beach area, staff will continue to work with the golf course owners to identify appropriate compensation or mitigation."

But this week, the department confirmed to CBC that the company will not be required to provide another piece of land or any other form of reparation.

Carroll said the government considered the jobs the course created in the area before making it's decision.

"The goal is to try and find that balance and in some cases in protected beaches there are the ecological factors that may trump others. In other cases, the social or economic can proceed because the ecological impact is minimized."

Environmental concerns

Environmentalists said the project is a clear example of ignoring environmental impacts in the name of money.

"I think it's an atrocious situation where the government refuses to do anything about it for over a year now," said Neal Livingston, the co-chair of the Margaree Environmental Association.

"I mean creating jobs is one thing. It's very good to create jobs but I'm creating jobs in my businesses and I don't get to be a violator of the law and get public money when I do it."

In August, the province announced  it is lending Cabot Links $8.25 million toward the $14-million Cabot Cliffs development and hotel expansion. The interest-bearing loan is repayable.

Tina Thibeau, a spokesperson for the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, said the province's loan will only be provided when all regulatory requirements are met.

This means that before the province provides any portion of the loan, the province must be satisfied the company has complied with land use regulations and obtained all necessary building permits to construct the golf course.

"To date, no funds have been advanced to the company," she said.

Ben Cowan-Dewar, who owns the course with Mike Keiser, said the company wanted to protect the environment.   

"As you can imagine, with any development of our scale, we have and continue to meet with teams from various government departments and environmental consultants," he said. 


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