Oakville city council unanimously votes to designate Glen Abbey golf course a heritage site

Oakville city council unanimously voted Monday night to seek a heritage designation for Glen Abbey golf course to save it from development, and ultimately destruction.

The course's owner says a heritage designation could spell 'the end of championship golf on the site'

Adam Hadwin of Canada tees off on the 11th hole during the Pro Am at the Canadian open golf tournament at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ontario on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Oakville city council unanimously voted Monday night to seek a heritage designation for Glen Abbey golf course to save it from development, and ultimately destruction.

ClubLink Corp, which owns Glen Abbey, has been trying for years to clear the way to build more than 3,000 homes on the more than 80-hectare course, as well as parkland and office buildings. But Monday night's vote was a setback for that plan.

Oakville Mayor Rob Burton said the designation will help the city conserve 'heritage' elements of Glen Abbey golf course. (CBC)

Following the meeting, Oakville Mayor Rob Burton said this doesn't mean there won't be a successful application for development. He says what it does mean is that the city will conserve "heritage" elements, which will likely make it harder for ClubLink's proposal to go through.

'The end of championship golf on the site'

Glen Abbey, which was designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus and opened in 1977, is considered one of the crown jewels of the sport in Canada.

It has hosted the Canadian Open 29 times — more than any other course in Canada — and is slated to host the open again in 2018. 

However, in an emailed statement, ClubLink senior vice president Robert Visentin said the heritage designation could force Glen Abbey to cancel next year's tournament.

"Our view is it may actually accelerate the end of championship golf on the site," Visentin's statement said.

But Oakville Mayor Rob Burton told CBC Toronto he's skeptical of that claim.

"Sounds like no matter what, there's no Canadian Open. I believe some people might perceive that as an attempt to threaten, but I think they just misspoke," said Burton just hours before the vote.

Objections to a 'rushed process'

During the meeting, Mark Flowers, a lawyer for ClubLink, took to the podium to ask for more time to address the proposal, saying the owners were given less than 16 hours to respond.

"This really does seem like a rushed process," Flowers said to a packed house.

Mark Flowers, a lawyer and representative for ClubLinks, said the designation application was a 'rushed process.' (CBC)

He criticized the proposed heritage attributes in the document, calling them "so all encompassing and so vague as to be incapable of any objective assessment."

The vote was only one step in a long process. The formal heritage application will be up for a vote next, and then only after that will there be an application to develop the land. So, the course is still years away from development.

The owner's land-use proposal will be debated at the next planning and development meeting, scheduled for Sept. 26.