The city will appeal an Ontario Superior Court decision that had opened the door for Kanata Lakes Golf and Country Club owner ClubLink corporation to develop the site with 1,500 new homes, according to Kanata North Coun. Cathy Curry.
ClubLink has been notified of the decision and the appeal must be filed before November 30.
Curry says the protection of green space, as well as remaining forest, is a vital concern for the community.
“The City has to look at things that really affect surrounding residents, and some of those are our policies and how we build, develop and plan,” Curry said in a telephone interview. “And the city’s constant concern here is the stormwater.”
Curry says the original contract with developer Campeau called for 60 per cent of the entire property to be used for development, with the other 40 per cent mandated to be used as green space which is “all rock and not great conditions for building.”
That 40 per cent was used as the stormwater management plan for the houses that would be built on the rest of the site. The water then funnelled to the golf course lands, which eventually ended up in the beaver pond on the golf course property, on to Kizell Creek, to the Kizell municipal drain and ultimately to the Ottawa River.
Curry says ClubLink now wants to rip up the plan because they’ve yet to issue a stormwater plan that works. She says an adjoining Urbandale property has also been trying for 18 years to develop an appropriate stormwater plan.
“It’s a considerable problem to have houses in an area flooded,” Curry said.
The earlier Superior Court decision argued that ClubLink shouldn’t be “saddled with a perpetual obligation” to operate a golf course. Justice Marc Labrosse said some other sections of the original 1981 agreement that set aside 40 per cent of the Kanata Lakes property for green space were “inoperable.”
That agreement was between Campeau, developer and original owner of the golf course, and the City of Kanata, which was amalgamated into the City of Ottawa in 2001. ClubLink, which purchased the land in 1996, filed its redevelopment application with the City of Ottawa in 2018, but the planning committee rejected it in 2020. Legal action began.
A decision in the city’s favour was overturned by the Court of Appeal for Ontario, and the Supreme Court of Canada rejected the municipality’s application for leave to appeal again, sending the matter back to Superior Court. Three days of hearings occurred in September 2022, leading to Labrosse’s October 2023 ruling.
Curry has a counter-argument for those who suggest more development will bring more property tax dollars. She says in order to make the development happen, the city would need to replace all the existing sewage and stormwater sewers. City councils have been consistent in their opposition.
“Each mayor has said ‘absolutely not,’ the planning department has said ‘absolutely not’ and the community is starting to realize that this isn’t city waffling over wondering what they should do,” Curry said. “The city each time has come out firmly against this development.”
Barbara Ramsay, chair of the Kanata Greenspace Protection Coalition, says the issue is about far more than golf. She says there’s more awareness of the importance of stormwater management, given the changing environment and the intensity of storms. Echoing Curry, she says ClubLink has not shown how they will manage the stormwater system.
“When you take land, in this case 175 acres of fully permeable land at the head of a stormwater management system, and suddenly make it impermeable by filling it with concrete and homes, that water has to go somewhere,” Ramsay said.
“That’s really the core, the heart of the argument. As much as people like to grasp the golf course issue, it’s not a golf issue at all.”
In addition, she says there’s a serious public safety risk surrounding potential mercury contamination on the site, identified by consultants working for ClubLink on its development application.
According to Ramsay, the contamination likely resulted when mercury-laden fungicides were applied to the golf course turf from its early days starting as a nine-hole layout in the 1960s. The use of mercury in fungicides was banned in Canada in the 1990s.
“They identified mercury contamination on the golf course beyond residential safety limits, so it’s not just a little bit of mercury. It is not suitable for residential development in its present form, which means all of the land, and because the contamination is widespread, all of the land would need remediation.”
The greenspace coalition was not party to the Campeau-Kanata/Ottawa agreement, so, although it gained intervenor status in court, it does not have standing to appeal the Superior Court ruling. That responsibility rests with the city.
However, the coalition has started action regarding what it describes as a restrictive covenant ClubLink signed when it purchased the course in 1996.
According to Ramsay, it features a commitment from ClubLink not to re-grade the property or to change its stormwater management function.
Ramsay says the Superior Court decision “doesn’t stop us from pursuing that application.”
It’s not about golf, she says.
“But we do want the right preserved to access and use that space when it’s not being used as a golf course,” Ramsay said. “And that right, as we’ve said many, many times, is registered on the title of every residential lot in Kanata Lakes.”