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Published on Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Oakville council votes to support Glen Abbey designation under heritage act

Residents pack Council Chamber to demonstrate support for heritage designation

Oakville council votes to support Glen Abbey designation under heritage act
Glen Abbey Golf Course
— Oakville Beaver file photo
By David Lea, Oakville Beaver

Oakville’s Glen Abbey Golf Course is on its way to receiving some level of protection under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Town council voted unanimously on Monday night (Aug. 21) to issue a notice of intention to designate the entire 229-acre property, citing its significance to the town’s cultural heritage.

The decision followed around 20 delegations from residents — all of whom called for the golf course to be protected.

“Tonight, I have heard that ‘Glen Abbey is Oakville and Oakville is Glen Abbey,’” said Oakville Mayor Rob Burton, shortly before voting on the matter.

“But, the remark that struck me the most was, ‘If Glen Abbey is not heritage, then what is?’ With a great deal of hope, I am moving this motion, because our past is heritage and heritage is our future.”

With this decision, town staff will begin looking into options for protective measures for Glen Abbey, which could include amendments to the town’s Livable Oakville Plan, zoning bylaw or other tools as deemed appropriate and necessary by the town.

There has been considerable interest in the future of the Glen Abbey Golf Course property at 1333 Dorval Dr. ever since owner ClubLink announced plans to build 3,222 residential units at the site, including nine apartment buildings between nine and 12 storeys.

Many residents have voiced concerns about the loss of the golf course and the increased traffic levels should the development be allowed to proceed.

ClubLink officials have pointed out 50.11 hectares (54 per cent of the total site) would be made up of publicly accessible green space.

Council’s decision resulted in thunderous applause from the hundreds of residents who descended on town hall to attend the council meeting.

So many packed into council chambers that some had to stand, while others had to move to town hall’s South Atrium to view the meeting via Town TV.

“I think it’s the right move and I think this shows that our efforts to educate the mayor and council, and really show them how important this golf course is to the golfing community and the town of Oakville, have really succeeded,” said Fraser Damoff, spokesperson for the Save Glen Abbey Coalition.

“Glen Abbey Golf Course really is the heart of Oakville, and it is nice to see that that sentiment has been reflected in the vote tonight at town hall.”

While residents will have to wait until a special council meeting on Sept. 26 to learn what impact the notice to designate will have on ClubLink’s development application, the answer is already clear for Damoff.

“If this process goes through and the heritage designation is fully enforced, I don’t see a way that development can move forward,” he said.

“There were already significant issues with the development application itself and what they were proposing. I think this heritage designation is the right move and protects the course as it is. Obviously there is a discussion that needs to be had if ClubLink wants to make certain changes to the course over time. For right now, this decision has stopped that development in its tracks.”

The report presented to council included a review of Glen Abbey Golf Course by Ken Moodie, director of the golf course architecture and consulting firm Creative Golf Design.

Town heritage planner Susan Schappert discussed that review.

“The Golf Course Review concludes the Glen Abbey golf course has a number of key attributes including the ‘spoke-and-wheel’ design of the golf course, which is the designed layout of the holes. Therefore, the spatial arrangement of all of the holes and the relationship between them needs to be protected,” said Schappert.

“The report specifies that this applies to both the valley holes and tableland holes, as well as the central clubhouse that acts as the ‘hub’ of the wheel. The other designed features of the golf course — including the greens, bunkers, lakes, planting and landforms, such as the spectator mounds — make the property an important early example of a stadium-style golf course.”

The town also retained Julian Smith, of Julian Smith and Associates Architects, to provide a detailed analysis of the cultural heritage value of the Glen Abbey property.

In his report, Smith calls Glen Abbey one of the most significant works by one of golf’s most significant figures, Jack Nicklaus.

“It ushered in a new era in tournament golf course design with its stadium and hub-and-spoke features. Its design is remarkable for the integration of artistry and craftsmanship, with many iconic stretches including the challenge and beauty of the valley holes and the drama of the final two holes,” wrote Smith.

“Its association with the Canadian Open has given it international significance and ties to many of the leading figures in the sport. It is a landmark not only within the Town of Oakville, but across Canada and abroad.”

Council also heard from ClubLink representative Mark Flowers, who called on council not to pass the notice of intention to designate.

He reiterated statements made during the Aug. 15 Heritage Oakville Advisory Committee meeting that ClubLink had been denied the opportunity to have proper input into the process.

He argued the town had denied ClubLink the opportunity to meet with the consultants who examined Glen Abbey Golf Course.

Flowers also noted the town had not released information to ClubLink in a timely fashion, stating ClubLink received 900 pages of new material including two consultants’ reports from the town just days before the heritage committee meeting.

The actual draft notice of intention to designate and the description of heritage features were only received by ClubLink on the evening of Aug. 14, Flowers said.

Flowers also noted the apparent rush to designate this property could cause problems with the operation of the existing golf course and may even hinder preparations for the 2018 Canadian Open, which will be returning to Glen Abbey.

He called the notice to designate the entire site an “overreach in the extreme” and questioned the town’s true motives behind the direction it was taking.

“A reasonable inference can be drawn that the primary purpose of this proposed designation with the attributes that have been identified is not about heritage conservation, but rather an attempt by the town to frustrate ClubLink’s development proposal,” said Flowers.

The statement provoked a collective groan from the audience.

The town’s community development commissioner, Jane Clohecy, responded to Flower’s statements, noting the process had not been rushed, with efforts to potentially designate heritage features at Glen Abbey Golf Course dating back to 2009.

She also pointed out the town has shared with ClubLink all information relevant to this process — something it is not required to do at this early stage.

Clohecy said the intention of the designation is not to turn the site into a museum that is frozen in time.

She said the golf course would be allowed to change in the future as needed to accommodate things like the Canadian Open.

Residents who spoke during the meeting called Glen Abbey a gem that is known around the world and deserves protection.

Many spoke of their own experiences and memories of the golf course, noting they could not imagine an Oakville without it.

“As a resident of Oakville, I feel that Glen Abbey Golf Course is an integral part of our cultural identity. I had the absolute pleasure of sitting behind the 18th green at the Canadian Open in 2000 when Tiger Woods hit his famous bunker shot,” said Steven Gibbins.

“Some 15 years later, I walked the grounds again during the Canadian Open. This time as a father, hand-in-hand with my children … Whenever my son Jack sees a golf course on TV, he always asks, ‘Is that our golf course?’ … My family and I have enjoyed many bike rides over the Smith-Triller Viaduct. We always stop to overlook the Glen Abbey Golf Course, both admiring the valley and the tablelands in the distance. When we see the Glen Abbey Golf Course, the children know that they are home.”

ClubLink has the option of appealing the decision to the province’s Conservation Review Board.

If this route is chosen, the review board will make a recommendation back to Oakville’s municipal council, who will then decide whether to designate.
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

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