City in 'driver's seat' on Kanata golf course future, Wilkinson says

Kanata residents are already sending hundreds of emails and building a war chest for any future legal or planning battles, but the former mayor of Kanata says a 1981 agreement should protect their golf course from being turned into another housing development.

Former Kanata mayor says 1980s agreements protect green space, if city willing to run golf course

The 18 holes that make up the 70-hectare Kanata Golf and Country Club snake in between homes in an established area of Kanata. (Google Maps)

A legal agreement from the 1980s stands between ClubLink and its plans to put housing on the Kanata Golf and Country Club, and also gives the City of Ottawa clout to decide what happens, according to the former Kanata mayor who signed the document.

ClubLink stunned residents and golfers Friday when it announced plans to redevelop the 70-hectare, 50-year-old course that weaves through the Beaverbrook and Kanata Lakes neighbourhoods.

The owner's plans are only in the early stages, and ClubLink has yet to file any development application with the city.

But residents are already sending hundreds of emails, building a financial war chest for any future legal or planning battles and working with their new city councillor, Jenna Sudds.

Wilkinson says agreement is clear

Marianne Wilkinson, who signed the 1981 legal agreement, believes it doesn't give ClubLink "a leg to stand on."

Wilkinson was mayor of the former City of Kanata in 1981 when Campeau Corporation offered to protect 40 per cent of the future Kanata Lakes area as green space.

She said she sat with a team from Campeau, negotiating late into the night to put that agreement in writing. 

To her, the agreement is clear: ClubLink can sell the course to another golf operator. If it can't find a buyer, it must convey the course to the city at no cost. If the city is unwilling to operate it as a golf course, only then can ClubLink redevelop it.

"[The city] is in the driver's seat, as far as I'm concerned," said Wilkinson, who has been sharing her institutional memory with residents and her successor.

Wilkinson also doesn't buy ClubLink's argument that Kanata needs more housing — there are 9,000 homes in the pipeline for Kanata North, she said.

Coun. Marianne Wilkinson says the 1981 agreement gives the city a say in what happens to the golf course. (Laura Osman/ CBC)

Home owners and golfers in the rough

Residents in Kanata are also trying to make sense of ClubLink's announcement.

Todd Fetterly, a golf club member whose home backs onto the fifth hole, doesn't buy the owner's argument that the club is dealing with fewer golfers and increased costs.

"From what we were told at our [annual general meeting] in April, everything was great and Kanata was doing quite well," Fetterly said.

When he bought his home, he was promised the course would never be redeveloped, but worries that might now depend on the City of Ottawa being willing to get back into the business of running a golf course.

"There's the loophole," Fetterly said. "It's really going to be what the appetite of the city is."

Councillor speaks with hundreds

Coun. Sudds says she has heard those concerns and has asked the city's legal staff to go over the 1981 agreement and its later amendments.

She said she will push for the city to run the golf course, if it comes to that. 

"I think we have an obligation as a city to honour, not only the legal agreement as it stands, but the intent, and to understand that major life decisions have been made based on this agreement and our community has grown up around it and [relied] on it."

Mayor Jim Watson will "be taking an informed position based on professional expert advice following this review," a spokesperson with his office said in a statement Monday.

"That said, Mayor Watson is very concerned about the loss of green space and will be working with Coun. Sudds to do what we can to preserve this green space," Mathieu Gravel wrote in an email.

Just last Wednesday Watson said during a council meeting that he was pleased the city no longer owns Pineview Golf Course, because he said it's not a cost that should be in the city's budget.