(City of Ottawa - image credit)
An Ontario court judge has upheld a 40-year-old agreement that says the Kanata Lakes Golf and Country Club must remain open space and not be redeveloped into a housing community.
The decision is a big win for the city, Kanata North Coun. Jenna Sudds and her constituents, who have spent two years trying to prevent property owner ClubLink from turning the course into a 1,500-home development with its partners Minto Communities and Richcraft Homes.
Sudds, who said she burst into tears over Friday's decision, called it "terrific news" for the community. As many as 500 homes back onto the course and more than 1,000 households use the grounds for recreation, she said.
"The green space, the golf course itself, which really is right in the middle of our community here, is used by the community quite frequently," said Sudds, who recently moved the neighbourhood. "I see people out all hours of the day throughout the winter. It's amazing to see all the tracks snowshoeing and skiing and dog-walking."
40-year-old agreement 'valid'
ClubLink, which bought the 50-year-old course in 1997, announced in December 2018 that it planned to redevelop part of the property.
Local residents, along with the newly elected councillor and the city's own legal department, argued that the development shouldn't go ahead due to a 1981 legal agreement between then City of Kanata and the developer. That agreement called for 40 per cent of the area in Kanata Lakes to be open space in perpetuity.
"The 1981 Agreement continues to be a valid and binding contract," Ontario Superior Court Justice Marc Labrosse wrote in his 44-page decision.
ClubLink had proposed 1,544 homes and apartments on the Kanata Golf and Country Club.
No one from ClubLink was available for comment. It's unclear whether the company will appeal the decision.
Late last year, council rejected the formal planning application from the owner of the Kanata Golf and Country Club to turn the property into a housing subdivision, arguing the decision was premature due to outstanding legal issues.
Clublink has appealed council's decision to the province's Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, which is set to hear the case early next year. In light of Friday's court decision, Sudds said the city will ask Clublink to withdraw its appeal.
The city fought to prevent ClubLink from developing the Kanata Golf and Country Club.
City won't have to run golf course
The original 1981 agreement, which has been updated several times, including when ClubLink purchased the property 23 years ago, stipulated that if the original owners of the golf course wanted to get out of the business and couldn't find another operator, the land would go to the city "at no cost," and the city would operate it as a golf course.
But the more recent 1997 agreement between the city and ClubLink says the lands can be used as a golf course, or if that doesn't work out, "remain open space lands."
Labrosse found that the 1997 agreement let the city off the hook from running the Kanata golf course.
"The City's obligations under … the 1981 Agreement are not triggered if the City discontinues the golf course use provided that it continues to use the land for recreational and natural environment purposes," he wrote.