ClubLink wins appeal in hopes of developing over Kanata golf course

ClubLink has won its appeal of an Ontario Superior Court decision that the Kanata Golf and Country Club must remain open space.

City of Ottawa had won lower court decision that centres on 1981 agreement

The city has been fighting to prevent ClubLink from building more than 1,500 homes on the site of its Kanata Golf and Country Club. (Kate Porter/CBC)

ClubLink has won its appeal of an Ontario Superior Court decision, which scraps a 30-year-old agreement that protected the Kanata Golf and Country Club from development.

The appeal was initially filed in March to the Court of Appeal for Ontario after a lower court sided with the City of Ottawa following a two-year battle to prevent the property owner, ClubLink, from turning the golf course into a development.

The development includes a proposed 1,480 units alongside partners Minto Communities and Richcraft Homes.

At the heart of the case are the facts of a 1981 agreement — which has been updated several times, including when ClubLink bought the property 23 years ago — between the former City of Kanata and the operator at the time. 

That agreement called for 40 per cent of the area in Kanata Lakes to be protected as open space in perpetuity. It also laid out guidelines about land use and ownership if the original owner of the golf course decided to get out of the business.

The appeal court's Friday decision said the Ontario Superior Court decision wrongly interpreted parts of that 1981 agreement.

"We are pleased with today's ruling. ClubLink remains committed to working collaboratively with the City of Ottawa and its residents," the company's chief financial officer, Andrew Tamlin, wrote in an email to CBC.

Local group, politicians vow to take matter further

But the city and local politicians plan to continue the fight against any potential development.

In a statement, former Kanata North councillor and current Kanata–Carleton MP Jenna Sudds expressed her disappointment in the court's decision.

"Today is an incredibly sad and frustrating day for our community," she wrote. "I know how much this greenspace means to our community."

Sudds committed to working with the area's current Coun. Cathy Curry to explore other options to stop the proposed development.

Mayor Jim Watson tweeted Friday he will ask provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs Steve Clark to intervene as he did in a similar situation in Oakville.

Watson also said the city solicitor told him he would seek approval to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Not everyone on council appears to believe that is necessarily the best course of action. Capital ward Coun. Shawn Menard tweeted soon after the mayor's statement was released, saying he doesn't remember council agreeing to have the case sent to the country's highest court.

It's also unclear whether the court would hear the case.

"This morning I was in shock ... We were heartbroken. We couldn't believe that we hadn't won," the area's newly appointed councillor, Cathy Curry, told CBC, adding she believes the decision is of national importance and could affect how greenspaces across the country are handled in the future.

"Some people might think, 'Well, I don't live in Kanata, it doesn't matter to me,' but does it matter to them what their greenspace is behind their house? Or in their neighbourhood that is city-owned and supposedly in perpetuity?"

The chair of the Kanata Greenspace Protection Coalition, Barbara Ramsay, echoed Curry's dismay upon seeing the court's "heartwrenching" decision around the length of the agreement.

"It's hard to think that a civil society functions when your word or an agreement no longer matters because it's no longer convenient to you," said Ramsay.

She said the group had to fight for intervenor status in the case and plans to continue to fight for local residents.

"We will struggle to remain in the secondary and tertiary row of the bus that we are ... put in. But we are not going to quit on this," she said.

Barbara Ramsay, seen in a photo from 2019, chairs the Kanata Greenspace Protection Coalition. "All is not lost. The sun will come up tomorrow" she said. (Hillary Johnstone/CBC News)

Stays golf course, for now

Not everything in the original agreement has been voided by the appeal court's decision. The ruling, as of right now, means ClubLink must still operate the site as a golf course "in perpetuity" and the city has a right of first refusal if ClubLink tries to sell the golf course.

City solicitor David White, in a memo to council, said even those aspects could be affected and the court's decision means the City of Ottawa and ClubLink will either have to reach an agreement or return to the lower court for a decision.

With files from Kimberley Molina and Nicole Williams

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