'It's about time': Verdun aims to shut down Nuns' Island golf course
Neighbours, city don't like bright lights; golf course VP says they are working on solutions
Officials in Verdun are looking to shut down a nine-hole golf course on Nuns' Island for violating its lease on city-owned land.
At the same time, the borough will file a legal injunction, demanding the driving range's stadium-style lights be dimmed or turned off completely.
As it stands, residents say the lights are flooding hundreds of neighbouring homes after 11 p.m., keeping people awake.
One of those residents is John St-Louis. He was elated to hear the borough is planning to take legal action against the golf course.
"It's about time," he said. "It's long overdue and I hope it happens."
Borough mayor Jean-François Parenteau said Golf Exécutif Montréal is not meeting its contractual obligations and, on Tuesday, the council will approve two motions that will set the legal battle in motion.
"The most important goal is to change the owner of the golf course and close or change the lights as soon as possible to respect the citizens," he said.
He said he's confident the borough will achieve that goal.
Guillaume Boulanger, vice-president of Golf Exécutif Montréal, called the mayor's threat of filing an injunction "aggressive."
"As soon as we were informed of this situation, we put a plan in place to find solutions," he said in an interview Thursday.
He said the golf course has been testing out new lighting measures all summer and they have asked residents for feedback.
$10K to play a public course
When signed in 2007, the 40-year lease required the course to be open to the public and certified as an eco-friendly facility, Parenteau said. The current owner took over that lease in 2009.
By offering annual membership fees at more than $10,000 and using municipal water to keep the terrain green, Parenteau said the course is not meeting those obligations.
The current membership fees are a substantial jump from the roughly $30 the course used to charge per round when it operated under its former name, Golf de L'Île-des-Sœurs, said Étienne Brunet, the mayor's chief of staff.
There are many golfers in the area eager to play the course, but they've been forced to head across the river in search of more affordable fees, the mayor said.
The issues with the lights began when the course was renovated last year. That is also when the fees were increased.
Boulanger said it wasn't financially possible to keep the old membership fees. He said he's seen several golf courses close because of low membership fees.
"Golf is a luxury sport. It's very expensive to operate a golf course," he said.
Keeping it green — with tap water
The course's ecological obligations require that it relies on untreated water to water the green.
The borough offered to split the cost of a water pump to use river water instead of tap water, but the course's owner didn't want to pay his share, Brunet said.
Nuns' Island resident George Athens has been speaking out against the golf course for some time.
"Somebody was supposed to be running an ecological and public golf course up there and they're not doing it. And the city has been letting him get away with that for a long, long time," he said.
Eating with backs to the window
The lights are so bright, residents eat dinner with their back to the windows, said St-Louis, who worked to collect over 1,600 signatures for a petition against the lights.
"It's beyond a public nuisance. It's public harassment," said St-Louis. "It's an attack on us."
Police were called, complaints filed and fines levied against the golf course for violating the borough's nuisance bylaw, but nothing has changed, said Brunet.
For his part, Parenteau is confident he will find a new course developer to take over, saying that there are plenty of golf course developers chomping at the bit, ready to offer access to an eco-friendly facility at a more affordable rate.
Brunet said the borough was contractually obligated to negotiate with the owner before taking steps to cancel the lease, which explains why it has taken so long to get to this point.
Now, he said, it's time to take action.
"We've been in discussions with them for a very long time and things are simply not moving," Brunet said. "Citizens are fed up and elected officials as well."
with files from Brian Lapuz