Hamilton

City can't sell Brantford's Arrowdale golf course as legal battle continues

The City of Brantford won't be able to sell the Arrowdale golf course land while a group continues to fight the decision in court. 

Opposing group is seeking appeal of court's decision on sale

A group opposing the sale of Brantford's Arrowdale golf course filed an application for a judicial review. It was dismissed, but they want to appeal it. (Commercial Real Estate Services)

The City of Brantford won't be able to sell the Arrowdale golf course land while a group continues to fight the decision in court.

Know Your City Inc. is seeking an appeal on its application for judicial review, which was dismissed by a divisional court in January. The group raised concerns over how city councillors arrived at the decision to sell Arrowdale, and wanted to overturn it.

On Thursday, the Ontario Court of Appeal granted a stay, meaning the city isn't allowed to complete the sale of the course until the leave to appeal is finished and outcome decided. 

The group, incorporated by Veronica Martisius and Ronald Heaslip, said it was "elated."

"We feel heard by Justice (William) Hourigan, and we wholeheartedly agree with his assessment that granting the stay of the divisional court's decision pending the outcome of our quest for appeal is in the interests of justice," read a statement. 

The city intends to use the money for affordable housing. But some residents previously told CBC News that they worried it was an attempt to tug at people's heartstrings. (Friends of Arrowdale)

The City of Brantford said it will abide by the stay and is prepared to defend the initial decision, "which confirmed that the city acted properly."

"It is unfortunate that Know Your City Inc.'s conduct has delayed the sale of Arrowdale, and has delayed the city's ability to provide urgently needed affordable housing to some of our community's most vulnerable residents," the city said. 

Brantford city council voted to market the municipally owned Arrowdale lands in December 2019, and approved the sale in August 2020. It said it intended to use the money for affordable housing.

Elite M.D Developments made a $14-million offer for the nearly 13 hectares (32 acres) of land. The city said the other nearly seven hectares (17 acres) would be set aside for a park. 

Some current and former residents protested the decision, and spoke with CBC News about their concerns of losing green space and a course that was enjoyed by generations of seniors and junior golfers. 

City wants money for affordable housing

They also questioned whether the city's promise to put funds toward affordable housing would pan out. 

In its application for judicial review, Know Your City argued that the city failed to follow its procedural bylaw, that it didn't give notice of the sale listing to nearby concerned First Nations, and that it failed to have an "open mind." 

The city says it "remains optimistic" about supporting those in need of affordable housing after completing the appeal process. 

Hourigan wrote in his decision about a concern to "move apace" because of this interest. 

Know Your City is scheduled to file its leave to appeal materials to the Court of Appeal on Feb. 19. The city must file its responding materials by March 5.

Appeal could be heard this summer

Heaslip is a long-time resident of Brantford. Martisius is Mohawk, a direct descendent of Joseph Brant, and a member of Six Nations of the Grand River, who was born and raised in Brantford but now lives on the west coast.

Both were a part of the Friends of Arrowdale group that petitioned to save the nine-hole course. 

Hourigan outlined three reasons behind granting the stay, including that a motion for a leave to appeal was not "frivolous or vexatious." Know Your City would also suffer irreparable harm if the order was not granted, the judge said, because the golf course would be sold and its purpose for existing would be lost. 

Hourigan also said there is no evidence that the potential sale would be lost if the stay was granted. 

If the group gets permission, Hourigan said, there's "every reason to believe" that an appeal can be heard in June or shortly after.

Park plans

The city's most recent media release on Arrowdale said that absent of an appeal, the city would continue with its plans for the community park. 

Three short-listed concept designs were available on the city's website, as well as a poll that sought input from the public. 

Know Your City says it doesn't believe the city should be proceeding with park plans because its existence is tied to disposal of a portion of the lands, which it is challenging. 

"We think the Arrowdale lands should remain unaltered until this matter is finally decided," it said. 

CBC News asked the city about whether park development would be put on hold. The city's timeline says that staff would refine a design in February and post the final design in March. 

A city spokesperson replied that the step for providing public input on the design was completed last week, and parks staff are analyzing the results.

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