'Win-win' turns to major loss for new owners of Kelowna Springs Golf Course but company not deterred | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'Win-win' turns to major loss for new owners of Kelowna Springs Golf Course but company not deterred

Still image of Kelowna Springs Golf Course
Image Credit: Lucide Visual

Kelowna Springs Golf Course won't be paved for an industrial park any time soon, Kelowna city councillors decided last night, but that doesn't mean it will remain a golf course.

Councillors completed their turnaround on the future of the golf course at a public hearing last night. In last year's update to the official community plan, the course was designated as industrial land, which caught many councillors by surprise, even though they had already approved it. A new council voted 8-1 last night to restore it to recreational use. 

That leaves new owners, Denciti Development Corp. in a tough spot. It bought Kelowna Springs Golf Course in 2021 expecting to turn it into an industrial park, as suggested in city plans. The company said its plans would have created 1,000 jobs.

In the face of strong backlash from the golf and environment community, Denciti president Volodya Gusak took a “win win” compromise to the public hearing last night, June 20. He suggested the city split the land designation so the back nine holes of the golf course was preserved. That would allow industrial development on the other half of the property, creating 500 industrial jobs.

That suggestion was soundly rejected as council voted 8-1 in favour of reverting to the old designation.

READ MORE: Why more time is needed to decide fate of plan to redevelop Kelowna golf course

“Through open dialogue and constructive engagement, we will get to work on a rezoning application for the property that finds a balance between recreational use and Kelowna’s acute need for employment and industrial land,” the CEO Garry Fawley said in an emailed statement today. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to deliver a project that contributes positively to the community as a whole.”

More than 400 pages of correspondence was sent to the city on the issue, more than City Clerk Stephen Fleming said he has seen for any one issue in his 20 years in office.

Despite the fact that there were 172 letters of support versus 34 letters of opposition and, despite the fact that many people spoke in favour of industrial use during the 4.5 hour public hearing last night, council still voted 8-1 for future recreational use.

Only Coun. Loyal Wooldridge voted against the change.

Coun. Luke Stack led the charge from the beginning.

“The starting point should be to restore this because the citizens have asked us to do it and we have a duty to do it, in my opinion,” Stack told council last night. “Why? Do it for the citizens that have asked you to do it. Do it for the trees. Maybe you want to do it to preserve green space. Maybe you want to do it to protect the neighbouring wetland and the animal and bird species that enjoy this area. Maybe you want to do it to protect the neighbouring farmlands. Perhaps you want to do it to protect the floodplain. Maybe you even want to do it to offset climate change. I don’t know. But do it mainly for our city’s future.”

What the change doesn’t do is guarantee the golf course will continue to operate.

Ian Robertson, owner of golf operations and former owner of the land with two other family members, said he will retire no later than the end of the 2024 golf season. He was willing to sell the golf operations to an employee who would have run the remaining nine holes.

“It is important to understand the golf course so many fondly recall will never be the same as reinvestment will end without clarity on term of operation, be that nine holes or 18 holes,” he told council. “The city, as owners of Shadow Ridge Golf Course, are also aware of both the capital hungry nature of golf courses and the inevitable slow decline in quality of product due to long term uncertainty.”

The city bought Shadow Ridge and plans to shut it down some day to accommodate expansion of Kelowna Airport, even though it’s in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Kelowna Springs is not in the reserve.

“The land sits in an area that is identified within the City of Kelowna's and the province of BC’s planning documents for land uses that will support the growth of Kelowna Airport, UBCO and the region’s economic job base,” Robertson said. “We bought it in 1995 knowing it was not in the ALR, that it was situated in a prime location and knowing the day would come that operating a golf course would not be the best use of the land.”

That day seems to be near, either at the end of this golf season or next.

Denciti is still free to go back to council in the future and try again to change the land into industrial.

 — This article was updated at 10:41 a.m. Wednesday, June 21, 2023, to say Denciti plans to try to rezone the property.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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