Once upon a time there was a man who loved golfing.  He loved it so much that he gifted his own, large, lovely hillside property, overlooking the beautiful Fraser Valley, to the City, (the City being at that time the District of Matsqui).  He gifted the land to the City on the condition that it be kept as a golf course,…...”in perpetuity”.

That is the story we have been told so long that it is almost an unquestioned part of the history of Abbotsford.

What follows here is important, not so much about golf courses, pipelines, land zoning or club house gifts from Kinder Morgan, but what really matters is integrity in our elected officials and in our government employees.  I think most of our city employees do have integrity, but somewhere along the way the story of Ledgeview departed from fact to fiction, as far as I can see.   In yesterday’s FOI response you will see exactly what I see, and I do not see anywhere a confirmation of the myth of land deeded to us with a promise to retain the land as a golf course,…….life without end.

I do however see that the Matsqui council PAID, $415,200. for the Ledgeview lands.  (May 29/80)

Some years ago Regina Dalton and I had lunch at Ledgeview.  We asked a few questions about the operation of the place and were kindly directed to a large table full of fellows sitting around it, who were quite agreeable to explain the history of Ledgeview to us.  I do not believe any of these men felt they were telling us tall tales at all, when they said the owner, (who was still alive at that time) had ‘gifted‘ the land to the City, with the proviso that it be kept as a golf course in perpetuity.

That is what I think Mayor Henry Braun said quite recently, when he was defending council decision to accept $1.3 million from Kinder Morgan, to build a club house on Ledgeview.  The mayor said that was a ‘gift‘ from KM, with no strings attached.  KM seized gleefully on it right smartly.  Directly after council agreed to accept the ‘not bribe’, KM posted that Abbotsford was in favour of their proposed pipeline expansion.  It should be noted that the decision was currently being mulled over by the National Energy Board.  So all this seemed quite wrong.

I thought there was a printed version of Mayor Braun speaking about the Ledgeview property having to remain a golf course,..”in perpetuity” but my newspapers have gone off to the recycle.  Several people confirm they heard or read that, but I don’t have it, so will have to leave it that I believe I heard, or read our mayor repeating the legend.

Certainly Mark Rushton, long-time resident and newspaper man believes the story

“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.

So we have it, yet due to its configuration, it is limited strictly to golf, despite its name – Ledgeview Golf and Country Club. Those last two words should be italicized because it is anything but.

However, with a proper, specially built centre, the lands and facility could, and should, become a significant revenue generator.”  http://www.abbynews.com/opinion/369454982.html

 

This Aldergrove Star clip seems to be a reference to Ledgeview, but the link doesn’t take it further:

Aldergrove Star, February 14, 2013 by Black Press – issuu

Feb 14, 2013 – It is vital that the community keeps this aspect in mind … It took a lot of hard work and money but this 163 acre parcel is preserved in perpetuity, and has a …. Golfconnection and Country Ledgeview Golf and Country Club.

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Here’s some excerpts from  Kevin Mills – Abbotsford News

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.  ….

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

 

So what is the Legend of Ledgview?  Is it fiction, or fairy-tale, or fraud,…….or truly factual?  And why would the answer matter to us?

Here’s an exchange between me and councillor Dave Loewen:

 ——— Forwarded message ———-
From: Gerda Peachey <gerdapeachey@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, May 23, 2012 at 4:49 PM
Subject: Fwd: Ledgeview

Hi Dave:  It’s good to be discussing your collective, council, decision on the Ledgeview payment.  Maybe some of these conversations should happen before your decisions are made.  However another year will roll around soon enough, when groups again ask for financial assistance, so the underlying philosophies that guide how you spend City money, should be mulled over beforehand.

I don’t know how you would, “understand your views on golf in general”, as we have never talked about golf, or anything else, though I have written some letters to all of Council about your decision to allow disgusting events to be held in our publicly-owned buildings.  (No answer from Council)

I don’t have much of a view on golf, one way or the other.  I’ve never been attracted to the game, but lots of friends over the years have been keen golfers.

Ledgeview interests me because Vince Dimanno has for many years commented on the oddity of a golf course that loses money, and exists happily nonetheless because it is owned by the City, so all bills are taken care of — thanks to the hapless taxpayers in Abbotsford. And now that is being brought into sharp focus, with the club’s request for a quarter of a million handout — from our tax dollars.

I am asking for a copy of the original deed, or gift, or sale of this land, so that I can comprehend this better.

Without having seen it though, it does seem that our City should not be quick, in the future, to accept gifts that bind us to such a dubious long-term commitment.

I will be glad to see the document to clear up the vague and somewhat contradictory things said about the deal, but one staffer told me that it was not a pure gift.  This person says the City paid some amount for the Ledgeview land.

But supposing it was a ‘gift’ — to be maintained as a golf course in perpetuity — maybe the City should just give it back if the donor is still alive.  He was, last year.  

If that 109 acres is viable as a self-sufficient golf course, some private people will know it and buy it for that purpose. If the property can’t make a profit, let the owner, whether that be the City, or the donor to whom it reverts, sell this property that at best brings in $65,000, and at worst is an on-going financial burden.

That huge chunk of prime real estate will bring in a lot of money to the owner.  But after it’s sold the money keeps on flowing back into City coffers.  Development Cost Charges on all new development, taxes on all new land and buildings, water and sewer rates for all the new users.  

It’s interesting that the excuse given for the financial woes of Ledgeview are the weather, the economy, waning interest, and, and, ………… meanwhile, the Hall family in southeast Langley are right now developing a new golf course, with their own money.

What you and the rest of council are doing, is propping up Ledgeview while legitimate taxpaying businesses are being run by their own industry and ingenuity.

You are propping up an inefficient business that can’t survive without being a drain on the public purse.  What’s worse is that you thereby relieve the burden on Ledgeview’s governors by taxing their private competitors. 

As you note, “the golfers who pay an annual membership fee, volunteer time to do maintenance, and have also donated significant amounts of money over the years (above their fees) to ensure the course survives.”  Yet even with that extra money, Ledgeview cannot make ends meet.

You have created an uneven playing field — an unfair competition that favours and mollycoddles one, and increases the tax burden on others, the private operations.

That of course is what you are also doing with the private hockey team owned by Lane Sweeting and his partners. There exist other hockey teams, that really are privately owned and funded.  The Heat cannot lose, ever, can they?  You will always be there to salve their wounds with your healing $5.7 million balm.

Subsidizing Ledgeview is not in the same category, as building parks, rinks, ballfields, swimming pools and so on for local residents.  The City should stick to the business of taking care of basic communal needs, like water, sewer, roads.  And park facilities that are affordable and available for the use of everyone in Abbotsord.  You, our Council should seriously look at unloading this golf course, albatross, off our overtaxed backs.

On Tue, May 22, 2012 at 12:29 AM, Dave Loewen <davengrace@shaw.ca> wrote:

Gerda:

I read your article in Abbotsford Today, and while I understand your views on golf in general, and that this land would be better used if converted into residential properties, some of your other assertions are just plain incorrect!

 

Ledgeview has belonged to the City since 1980, and ever since that day, rather than have City employees (union wages) operate the course, the City turned it over to a non-profit Society to operate. Until this year, taxpayers have never had to pay a dime to operate the course. All profits over the years have been reinvested into the course in terms of maintenance and equipment purchases and updates. Shortfalls in the last few years have resulted partly from very poor golfing weather, and partly from the way in which the course has been operated.

 

The Society is taking steps to address that issue, and the weather we can only hope will be better. Having said that, golfing as a recreational pastime has been declining in popularity, and I suspect this has had some impact as well. The Society has had renewable terms of contract with the City, and you can rest assured that no options are disregarded when considering renewal. 

 

It should also be noted that the golfers who pay an annual membership fee, volunteer time to do maintenance, and have also donated significant amounts of money over the years (above their fees) to ensure the course survives. Ledgeview is off the beaten track, and certainly greater effort needs to be put into promoting the course – a course which serious golfers will tell you is one of the finest in BC. 

 

So in summary, this year marks the first time that we have paid a “fee for service” to this non-profit Society – it is NOT a ‘bailout’, as the News has described it! This is “our” course; not someone else’s! While the amount is not dismissed lightly, it is a small figure relative to the City’s budget, and if this one-time assistance will keep this Society operating the course at no further cost to the City, then I would think that is money well-spent. If however, we find ourselves in the same position next year, then certainly a different approach will need to be seriously considered.

 

Regards,

 

Dave

Well that, at least, is an easy answer to the question of why the Ledgview land matters.   A casual reading of news reports shows the golf course has been a financial burden on the tax-payers of Abbotsford for many years.  If the land were sold off at market value, whether as a whole, or in parcels and then taxed on the size of the property, as is done for all private property, industrial lands and businesses, Ledgview would be transformed overnight from a money drain to a mighty big money gain.

But NO, it cannot be sold.  It was given to the city to be kept as a golf course in perpetuity,…………………………………………..only it looks as if that was only a fable, one that we believed all these years.

***********************************************************************

This was actually my third request for a copy of this contract/deal/agreement or whatever it was originally, but the first time I asked for it by letter.

 

 

Date: Sun, Feb 28, 2016 at 9:41 PM
Subject: Freedom of Information request
To: Bill Flitton <BFlitton@abbotsford.ca>

Hi Bill:

A few years ago, I asked for a copy of the contract, or deed, or agreement signed between the owner of the land now called Ledgeview.
At that time staff told me that they had never seen it, and did not know if the original still existed.  But one city hall employee suggested that the original contract did not specify that the property be kept as a golf course, in perpetuity.
Given the recent signing of an MOU with Kinder-Morgan and the claim again that this land cannot be sold to private owners to develop as they see fit, I will ask again for a copy of the ORIGINAL  deed/contract between the owner of the land and the City of Abbotsford.
Can you let me know if I need to come in person to sign this FOI.  Thanks Bill,
Gerda Peachey

Here are copies of the documents City Hall sent me yesterday.  – April 14, 2016.

Good Afternoon Gerda,

 

Please find enclosed a letter in response to your request, along with a couple of documents regarding the sale of the lands known as Ledgeview Golf Course.

 

Yours truly,

 

Tammy Ketola, BA, CIPP/C

Information and Privacy Coordinator

Tel: 604-864-5575  Fax: 604-853-1934

Email: tketola@abbotsford.ca

From: Gerda Peachey [mailto:gerdapeachey@gmail.com

Sent: Thursday, April 14, 2016 2:00 PM
To: Tammy Ketola; Bill Flitton
Subject: Fwd: Freedom of Information request

3 Attachments

Ketola1 Ketola2 Ledgeview Minutes1 Ledgeview Minutes2 Ledgeview Minutes3 Ledgeview by-law4 Ledgeview by-law3 Ledgeview by-law2 Ledgeview by-law1

 

 

 

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