City vows to appeal after Ontario top court scraps parts of agreement protecting Kanata golf course

Kanata golf course
ClubLink wants to replace the Kanata Golf and Country Club with a new housing subdivision. File photo
Editor's Note

This story has been updated to clarify that the Ontario Court of Appeals did not overturn the entire 1981 agreement between the former city of Kanata and the owner of the golf course lands in question.

A firm looking to turn a Kanata golf course into a new housing subdivision earned a big win Friday when Ontario’s highest court struck down parts of a 40-year-old agreement barring much of the land from being redeveloped.

Mayor Jim Watson said the city will seek to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. Watson said he was “greatly disappointed” in the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision, while Kanata North Coun. Cathy Curry tweeted that she was “heartbroken” over the ruling.

“It doesn’t end here,” she added.

Friday’s decision marks the latest chapter in a years-long saga that’s pitted the owner of the Kanata Golf and Country Club against nearby residents.

ClubLink, which has owned the club since 1996, says the golf course is no longer financially viable and wants to partner with two local developers, Minto Communities and Richcraft Homes, to build 1,480 homes on the 71-hectare site.

But opponents of the redevelopment plan contend it violates a 1981 agreement between the former city of Kanata and then-landowner Campeau Corp. to preserve 40 per cent of the property, including the golf course, as green space.

Earlier ruling appealed

ClubLink, meanwhile, argues the so-called “40 per cent agreement” is no longer legally valid, and the two sides have been battling in court for the past year over whether the deal remains in force.

The city won the first round earlier this year when the Ontario Superior Court upheld the agreement. ClubLink then appealed the decision.

The original agreement gives the city the right to take over the land at no cost if the owners no longer want to operate the course and cannot find another operator or buyer who wants to maintain it.

But the appeal court struck down that section of the agreement in Friday's decision, along with another provision requiring the city to return the land to the owner if it stopped using the land for green space. 

On Friday, nearby residents opposed to the proposal vowed to keep fighting.

The Kanata Greenspace Protection Coalition said that while it’s “deeply disappointed and frustrated” by the appeal court's ruling, it plans to “pursue all avenues” to stop the golf course from being bulldozed.

“We knew this was going to be a long haul and we aren’t giving up,” the organization’s chair, Barbara Ramsay, said in a statement.

Ramsay also noted that the court didn't scuttle the 40-year-old agreement in its entirety, meaning as of now ClubLink or another buyer must still operate the site as a golf course "in perpetuity" and the city retains the right of first refusal to purchase the land.

Meanwhile, the developers and the city remain embroiled in another legal battle over the golf course rezoning application.

Councillors rejected the application last year, arguing the redevelopment proposal is “not compatible” with the surrounding neighbourhood. 

But ClubLink appealed to the province’s Local Appeal Planning Tribunal because the city didn’t rule on the rezoning application within the provincially mandated timeline. A hearing on the matter is slated for January 2022.