to markrushtonAndrew

Mark, in your article below, you refer to a deed gifted to the city.  A few years ago, I asked Abbotsford City staff to see a copy of the agreement, (or gift or donation) that was made of land to the city, to be kept for a golf course in perpetuity.  The staff said they had never seen the document, and did not know if it even existed anymore.   Whether or not the original still exists, what will happen to these ‘in perpetuity’ lands when BILL 17 – BC’s Land Use Contracts kicks in?  Our city council could conceivably take advantage of Bill 17 to unload this Ledgeview albatross, sell it to a private business group, or divide it into small lots.  They would immediately relieve the city of an ongoing drain on the public purse and turn that huge piece of land into a money generator.

 

Peter Johnson          Posted on May 5, 2014Categories Local Government LawThe statutory authority for land use contracts (as previously authorized under section 702A of the Municipal Act, RSBC 1960, c.255) was repealed by the Municipal Amendment Act, 1977.  However, many land use contracts entered into before the repeal of section 702A continue in force, subject to the authority of a local government to amend or discharge the land use contract pursuant to section 930 of the Local Government Act.Under the provisions of Bill 17, the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 2014, all remaining land use contracts will automatically be terminated, and shall be deemed to be discharged from the title to the applicable land by no later than June 30, 2024.  Additionally, any local government that has jurisdiction over land that is subject to a land use contract must adopt, by June 30, 2022, a zoning bylaw that will apply to that land on June 30, 2024.Clearly, the Provincial Government has decided that the era of the land use contract must be brought to a final conclusion.The following are the most significant points of the new legislation:

  • Part 26 of the Local Government Act is amended by addition a new section 914.1(1), providing for the termination of all land use contracts on June 30, 2024.
  • New section 914.1(2) states that if a local government has jurisdiction over land that is subject to a land use contract, it must adopt, by June 30, 2022, a zoning bylaw that will apply to the land on June 30, 2024.  If land is subject to a land use contract and is also covered by existing zoning regulations, then the existing zoning would presumably meet the requirements of section 914.1(2), although the June 30, 2022 deadline could possibly be interpreted as limiting the authority to change the “new” zoning rules between June 30, 2022 and the termination date.  Rather than simply relying on existing zoning rules, which may be completely out of sync with the actual use of the land, consideration could be given to adopting a new zoning bylaw for the land that is consistent with the use and density permitted under the land use contract, otherwise the lawful use of the land as of the date of termination of the land use contract will become a lawful non-conforming use under section 911 of the Local Government Act (see below).
  • Rather than wait until the new default termination date, under new section 914.2 a local government may, by bylaw, terminate a land use contract, provided it first holds a public hearing in accordance with section 890. A bylaw under section 914.2 must not be adopted after June 30, 2022, and provide that it comes into force at least one year after the bylaw’s adoption, and no later than the termination date. Section 892 is amended by adding requirements for the notice to be given in advance of the public hearing.  Having adopted the bylaw, the local government must then give notice to the land title office, and also to the owner of the land that is subject to the land use contract.

It might seem like the owner did a really generous thing back then, to freely give away 109 acres of prime real estate, when he could have sold the land and banked the money.  But today, this looks more like,….. ‘the gift that keeps on taking‘.

Below is a portion of an old letter I sent to the News on 5/18/12, though I don’t think it was printed:

If that 109 acres of prime land were sold for real estate – using very conservative estimates of say 4 stand-alone homes per acre,  that would give Abbotsford 438 new homes to tax.  But in reality city lots are not large quarter acre pieces. Throw in a few high-density lots, plus the DCCs ………… It doesn’t take much thinking before you conclude that the paltry sum asked of the club ($65,000. I think) is a very poor return.  And the City still has to spend money on maintaing the place.  All that for men in expensive cars to loaf around the golf course.
 
I asked those men about the ‘gift’ of the land, to be kept as a golf course in perpetuity, and I also asked about that at City Hall.  There is a lot of vague response.  Either no one I spoke with knows for certain, or the documents are not really binding the City to that ‘forever’ commitment.
 
Yesterday I had an interesting conversation with an employee from Newlands in Langely.  They do make a profit, and he said it is because they aggressively pursue money-generating events, like weddings and corporate events, conventions, and so on. I realize Ledgeview does not have similar facilities, but there’s the point – a private operator sees this as a viable investment – and makes it work.
 
The fundamental problem here is exactly the same as the issue of how we deal with ‘first nations’ or ‘the Heat’, or any number of issues, like corporate bailouts.  Government always does things badly when it wades into ‘running’ anything other than the basic, infrastructure needs, federal, provincial, or municipal.
 
Let those with business savvy run businesses.  Let those with expertise in entertainment utilize their skills, energy, resources and contacts provide the amusements that the public will pay for.   –    Gerda

 

Mark you say, “Throw in a swimming pool and perhaps a couple of tennis courts and it could become a true “country club” where perhaps people like me who don’t golf would be enticed to stop by, have dinner, and enjoy a drink”……..

  

But here’s where you make the same mistake Bruce Banman and the council of his day made, when they signed an MOU with the YMCA.  They would have, (but for an uproar from the public) given MSA hospital lands free to the Y,….paid for half the capital costs of building a new Y,…..exempt them from taxes for the life of the operation, (thought to be 40 years),…..and allowed them to operate businesses that would be in direct competition with private businesses, people whose taxes would help the Y, (a very wealthy operation), while receiving no such local government largesse to enable them to run a viable business in our town. 

Private business, not government projects are the true drivers of a robust economy. 

Golf courses, swimming pools, tennis courts, restaurants, liquor lounges,…….these are all entertainment that can, and should be run by private business operations.  But of course they won’t even try to do such things where the city uses tax dollars to compete with them

Here’s a portion of your article:

  •  Opportunity to enhance a beautiful asset – by Mark Rushton:  Feb. 20/16 -Abbotsford News

While I agree that city council may have put the cart before the horse in agreeing to accept a $1.3 million compensatory gift from Kinder Morgan before the pipeline project is approved, the decision to convert that money into a proper “clubhouse” at Ledgeview Golf and Country Club makes sense.

What better, more attractive, location to hold weddings, receptions, conventions or community meetings?

Except that today the “clubhouse” is little more than a converted residence built more than 50 years ago and, due to size and layout, is not conducive to much more than a golfers’ hangout.

Fact of the matter is that Ledgeview belongs to the taxpayers of Abbotsford, and in the agreement putting the property into city ownership is the clause that it remain a golf course in perpetuity.

However, with a proper, specially built centre, the lands and facility could, and should, become a significant revenue generator.

Throw in a swimming pool and perhaps a couple of tennis courts and it could become a true “country club” where perhaps people like me who don’t golf would be enticed to stop by, have dinner, and enjoy a drink while taking in the spectacular vista.

Golfing is, today, the course’s only source of revenue, some of which is returned to the city via taxes, user fees etc. by the golf club operator.

However, those revenue “returns” pale in comparison to what the location could generate should a much larger, modern facility be constructed. It would be nice, don’t you think, to have a city facility actually providing a financial return rather than simply costing us tax-dollar support.

Additionally, should (and that is still a big question) Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion project get go-ahead approvals from senior government, its route through Ledgeview will essentially close the golf course for close to six months. The financial blow to the golf club and the impact on city revenues deserves compensation, and it appears from the memorandum of understanding that Kinder Morgan agrees, and thus the offer of funding for a new clubhouse.

I think the city was right to choose that over general revenue funds.

For more than 40 years I have lived within horse-riding and walking distance of Ledgeview. I drive by it virtually every day and am constantly reminded of how underused it is as a community facility.

Surely such a valuable parcel of land could be, and should be, a star attraction used by many to turn it into a financial asset rather than as a simple playground for a relatively small group of golfers.

Diversify the asset, make it more inclusive and, to paraphrase W.P. Kinsella in Shoeless Joe’s Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come.

markrushton@abbynews.com

http://www.abbynews.com/opinion/369454982.html?fb_action_ids=10201140760077326&fb_action_types=og.comments

 

 

 Notice the reference to Kinder Morgan in this June, 2013 meeting below:  This doesn’t seem to show up properly on my web post, so I’ll type a few  lines here.
 This is Minutes of the AGM of Ledgeview Properties Ltd., Monday June 24, 2013,  11:03 a.m. in Room 530 of Abbotsford City Hall     Present were Bruce Banman, Les Barkman, H. Braun, D. Loewen, M. Gill and J. Smith,…..(all of them being our councillors, I assume)  And present were City Staff, G. Murray, J. Gordon, S. Azam, S. Kowalchuk
  The Directors……….again addressed the need for a new clubhouse. Although the club was not able to budget for such an expense, it was suggested that an opportunity might arise with Kinder Morgan who propose to extend an oil pipeline through the golf course.  The Club is still challenged with the perception that Ledgeview Golf Course is perceived by the public to be a private club.  
 

And a January, 2013 article from your Abbotsford News:

Abbotsford’s Ledgeview golf course restructuring

Despite financial challenges, the Ledgeview Golf Society will continue to operate the city facility.

                           

Despite some serious financial hardships, Abbotsford’s Ledgeview Golf Course is remaining open.

John Hambley, the interim president of the Ledgeview Golf Society, said that in an attempt to get the local course back on solid financial footing, some major restructuring had to take place.

Last year, the society, then led by Pat Differ, went before council seeking $250,000 in financial support. After running the course successfully for the past 30 years, the club lost $112,000 in 2010, $240,000 in 2011 and was expecting to lose $150,000 this year.

The society was created in 1978 to run the city-owned public golf facility. It currently has a lease that will expire at the end of 2015.

In May, the city granted Ledgeview $115,000, including $65,000 in rent forgiveness and $50,000 toward capital improvements.

However, financial troubles continued.

On Oct. 9, members were asked whether they wanted to continue, or “hand over the keys” to the city.

“The society wished to continue running the course,” said Hambley.

After the vote, five of seven on the board of directors resigned, and a sixth followed shortly after.

An almost entirely new board, led by Hambley, is now trying to put the course back on track.

But it is an uphill battle.

“What happened is our line of credit at the bank, which is $275,000 … we reached the limit on that effectively this fall and we couldn’t pay our payables promptly.”

He said the group was approximately $400,000 in debt at the time. The group had to find some new money and the bank was not an option.

“We asked all our members to contribute $500 as a special assessment and to date we’ve raised about $76,000.”

They also received an additional $50,000 in donations from the approximately 230 members, bringing the total raised to about $125,000.

“We had set a minimum of $120,000 to raise in order to satisfy the creditors, give us some working capital to get us through the winter.”

They also asked members to pre-pay membership fees for next season, generating an additional $160,000 in dues.

“All these monies, the prepaid dues, the donations and the assessments were put in a lawyer’s trust account so the bank couldn’t just go ahead and take it and say thank you very much,” explained Hambley.

With the immediate financial need looking more stable, the society started the next phase of restructuring.

Creditors were approached and asked to reduce the amount owed by 20 per cent. Ledgeview would repay its debts, but at 80 cents on the dollar.

So far, creditors have allowed the group to save an additional $8,000.

Hambley is hopeful other creditors will follow suit.

“It’s been a difficult time; a lot of hard work by the board. But at the same time it’s been a bit of a rallying by the membership. There’s a very passionate core of members who really want Ledgeview to succeed.”

While golf courses across North America are struggling due to the current economic situation, Hambley said some of Ledgeview’s woes were “self-inflicted”.

He said the society hasn’t been “on the ball” managing and budgeting the course, and needs to be more diligent.

That means the board will have to take over some of the hands-on duties of running the course.

“The general manager’s (Chris Hood) contract expired at end of December and he’s not being renewed.”

Hambley said it doesn’t mean another general manager won’t be hired in the coming years. The group just “can’t afford it right now.”

A marketing campaign is also being developed to let the public know that Ledgeview is open to everyone.

“It’s a public course. We have to change the perception that you have to be a member to play.”

The society is also examining its pricing to see if it can attract more golfers.

“Ultimately, the goal of the society is to get a lease extension from the city.”

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