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Published on Thursday, September 28, 2017

Council refuses ClubLink development bid

Oakville council unanimously rejects proposal to develop Glen Abbey Golf Course

Council refuses ClubLink development bid
— Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press
Spectators cross the bridge between the 13th and 14th holes at Glen Abbey golf course in Oakville
By David Lea, Oakville Beaver

Oakville’s town council voted unanimously on Wednesday night (Sept. 27) to reject a development proposal that would see more than 3,220 residences built on the famous Glen Abbey Golf Course.

The decision followed a special meeting of the planning and development council, which lasted for two nights and heard from approximately 25 delegations.

The issue at hand was Glen Abbey Golf Course owner ClubLink’s application for a zoning change that would allow it to construct 3,222 residential units, 69,000 sq. ft of commercial/retail space and 107,000 sq. ft of office space on the property at 1333 Dorval Dr.

In his remarks at the end of the meeting, Oakville Mayor Rob Burton called the proposal an attack on the Livable Oakville Plan, which was created by the town and the community to guide growth.

He said permitting this development to proceed would essentially be a betrayal of all the residents and stakeholders who consulted with the town to make that Livable Oakville Plan a reality.

“The application asks us to ignore provincial, regional and town land-use policies in no small way,” said Burton.

“If we did that, we would break the very social contract that we created and nurtured with our community with so much public consultation and so much time. It was years and millions of dollars in the making. We got to know each other and our hopes and aspirations very well.”

The development application drew considerable interest from the community, with more than 100 residents attending the meeting.

Many wore green shirts or pins featuring the slogan “Save Glen Abbey.”

Dozens of members of the Save Glen Abbey Coalition, a residents’ group which has gathered more than 8,400 names on a petition to stop the development, gathered outside Oakville Town Hall just prior to the meeting.

Council’s decision was well-received by the group’s spokesperson, Fraser Damoff.

“This is the result we were looking for. It is obviously good that all of council voted unanimously to protect the course,” he said.

“The fight is not over, but it is another step in protecting the course that we were happy to see happen last night.”

Town staff had called on council to refuse the development application for a number of reasons.

One reason focuses on the preservation of cultural heritage.

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

Arguments for the heritage designation focused on things like the golf course’s spoke-and-wheel design, as well as the fact that golf superstar Jack Nicklaus designed it.

Town staff said any proposal that would remove the golf course would not conserve the cultural heritage value and heritage attributes.

Town staff also pointed out that the proposed development would essentially turn the Glen Abbey Golf Course into an unplanned growth area.

They argued this would cause problems, as the area is not served by any significant existing or planned level of transit service.

It was also pointed out that attempting to fix these transit and infrastructure problems may draw resources away from other planned growth areas.

“The significant impact that this would impose on the cultural heritage landscape that has been identified on the property is so significant that staff feel the application should not proceed,” said Mark Simeoni, town planning services director.

“The changes that it imposes on the urban structure are so significant that staff feel the application should not proceed.”

ClubLink lawyer Mark Flowers also spoke during the meeting.

He attempted to outline the reasons he felt the development was in the public interest, noting that 54 per cent of the overall site would be preserved as publicly-accessible green space.

“In its current form, the only people who are able to enjoy the use of this site are ClubLink members, golfers who are prepared to pay the relatively high greens fees or those who might attend during the one week of the year when Glen Abbey might host the Canadian Open — and of course, we know that Glen Abbey’s days of hosting the Open are numbered,” said Flowers.

He also noted the proposal would achieve a tree canopy of 42 per cent and generate $126 million in development charges.

“Given the site’s location within the build boundary, its ability to readily access and efficiently utilize existing infrastructure, the proposed redevelopment will both pay for itself and contribute to other planned infrastructure projects by both the town and the Region of Halton,” said Flowers.

Residents who delegated included representatives from the Joshua Creek Residents’ Association, the Clearview Oakville Community Alliance, the Oakville Lakeside Residents’ Association, the Fairway Hills Community Association, the Save Glen Abbey Community Coalition and the Oakvillegreen Conservation Association, among others; they all spoke overwhelmingly against the development.

Some residents voiced concerns about the traffic impacts, while others worried about the loss of a world-class golf course.

Another resident asked where all the children who would live in this development would go to school, stating schools in the immediate vicinity are either at or over capacity.

One resident told council ClubLink’s offer of publicly-accessible green space is hollow, noting the area is a flood plain, which is why it can’t be developed.

They also suggested that because of the valley’s steep walls, the public would need grappling hooks to enjoy this green area.

Others rejected the idea that Glen Abbey Golf Course no longer has the capacity to accommodate the Canadian Open, pointing out that the Open keeps coming back, so “Oakville must be doing something right.”

Oakville’s Peter Longo said the development would “tear the heart out of our amazing town.”

Former Oakville MP Terence Young said Oakville residents should have the right to feel safe from this type of development.

Young said residents should feel safe from people in a hurry to make money “tearing up the greenery to build roads and towers that change the entire character of the environment and local community.”

“They should feel safe from too many people and cars being put in one place; and safe from losing privacy and peace, and losing the vistas that we all enjoy. People deserve to live without fear that the character of their community will be demolished,” he stated.

While council may have rejected the ClubLink development application, the matter is far from over, as the developer does have the option of appealing to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

Oakville council will also have to contend with an application filed by ClubLink on Monday (Sept. 25) to demolish the Glen Abbey Golf Course site.

That proposal would see ClubLink remove the golf course and demolish all buildings on the site, with the exception of the RayDor Estate House — which is currently leased to Golf Canada for its offices, the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum, as well as the stables.

Burton told the Oakville Beaver the day the demolition information was filed that Town of Oakville council will give this new application the consideration it is due within the required time frame of 90 days from completion of the requirements.
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