Efforts by Saanich to create more commercial and non-commercial activity at the Cedar Hill Golf Course suffered a reversal.
An Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) panel denied a request by Saanich to use a portion of the clubhouse at Cedar Hill Golf Course for “health services” such as physiotherapy, chiropractic and health and wellness programs.
Cedar Hill Golf Course is part of Cedar Hill Park, one of Saanich’s largest parks, with a total area of 53.4 hectares. Almost all of it lies within the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Carole Ireland, manager of the golf course, said the ALC missed an opportunity to allow additional commercial and non-commercial activities at the facility.
Saanich had submitted the application to the ALC as part of efforts to clear up an “anomaly” that staff had uncovered when it was trying to develop strategies to improve the financial sustainability of the course against the backdrop of unpredictable revenue streams resulting from increasingly unpredictable weather patterns.
Ireland said the golf course does fine financially during golf season, but Saanich would like to generate more revenue during the off-season – hence the proposed change, which would have also connected the golf course to non-golfers in the community, said Ireland.
While Saanich had taken steps to complete its end of the rezoning process in December 2017, the ultimate success of the project hinged on approval from the ALC because the property lies in the ALR.
In its finding, the three-person panel for acknowledged the non-invasive nature of the proposal. At the same time, it expressed fear that Saanich’s request represents a slippery slope.
“The [proposal] does not include the construction of any new buildings, expansion of existing buildings, or changes to existing servicing, parking, or landscaping,” the ruling read. “However, the [proposal] would increase the range of non-agricultural uses taking place on the property. In this regard, the panel finds that the proposed health services bear no relationship to agriculture and that the [proposal] would perpetuate the long term non-farm use of ALR land.”
Ireland does not buy this argument. “The uses of the land are already non-agricultural,” she said, noting that the club house has been part of the Saanich-owned golf course for decades, and likely remain so for the future. “It would not have changed the current uses within the park boundaries.”
Saanich can appeal the panel’s decision within the next year and Ireland said she will meet with Saanich’s planning department to discuss options.