After a lengthy battle, Oakville’s pristine Glen Abbey golf course has been saved from redevelopment.
In a statement released on Friday, Ontario Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark said he had secured a commitment from Glen Abbey Golf Club owner ClubLink Corp. to squash its controversial plans.
For years, ClubLink -- the owner of the 80-hectare plot of land that houses the golf course -- has fought to replace the iconic links with more than 3000 homes. The proposed plan also included parkland and office buildings.
Not surprisingly, potentially kissing the famous golf course goodbye was met with loud and clear backlash from Oakville residents and passionate voices across the country -- golfers or not.
The celebrated course was designed by American golf icon Jack Nicklaus in 1977 and has been regarded as one of Canada’s top golf courses ever since. It’s home to Golf Canada and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and has hosted three dozen Canadian Open Championships.
But it also offers beloved and ever-important green space to the Oakville region.
So, Oakville city officials and a handful of passionate local organizations like Save Glen Abbey have fought back against the plan for years. The golf course, they said, should remain in-tact, and a development is out of line with the town’s Livable Oakville Plan. Not only should its history be celebrated and protected, so should its environmental characteristics, they’ve relentlessly argued.
On its website, Save Glen Abbey lists 30 reasons why the development shouldn’t go ahead, ranging from zoning and target growth concerns, to the need to protect Halton Region’s largest watershed and prevent the removal of some 1200 mature and semi-mature trees.
Now, the group no longer has to plea its case.
And a resolution came much sooner than expected. After a years-long battle between ClubLink and Oakville City Council since, an Ontario Land Tribunal was set to determine the golf course’s fate at the end of the summer.
Inspired by recent uses of the Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO), last month Conservative Oakville MPP Stephen Crawford send a letter to Oakville Mayor Rob Burton asking him to formally request the order in order to save the land quickly. That move came after the Halton Regional Council passed an unanimous motion earlier in June to nudge the province as a reminder of its commitment to protect Glen Abbey and urging it to use all the resources and tools available to protect the land.
While an MZO, if issued, would stop plans for development in its tracks – eliminating the need for a costly and time-consuming tribunal process – one wasn’t used in this case. Last week, Oakville Mayor Rob Burton sent a formal request to Clarke to intervene, which included the suggested use of an MZO. Citing “too many variables on the table” to execute a MZO, Clarke instead reached out to ClubLink to secure their commitment that they not only withdraw their appeals from the Ontario Land Tribunal, but also withdraw their plans for redevelopment and resume operations at the beloved golf course.
“I think all of us at Save Glen Abbey were shocked at the good news; we had no indication it would happen this soon,” said Bill McKinlay, spokesperson for Save Glen Abbey. “You knew something would happen when MPP Crawford asked the town to put a motion through, but we had no indication of timing. We’re very grateful for the government for making this happen.”
A passionate ally, it was really Crawford who got the ball rolling (no pun intended).
The MPP is a long-time advocate of saving Glen Abbey. “Since taking office, I have received thousands of emails from Oakville residents and Ontarians who wanted this vital green space preserved,” says Crawford. “It is fantastic that our government stepped in and saved Glen Abbey from development, which will remain in place for future generations. This is a significant outcome for the local community.”
It’s also a major win for golfers from across the province -- if not the entire country.
“Glen Abbey is really iconic for Oakville and for the province,” says McKinlay. “It’s been home to 30 Canadian Opens; it’s one of the few sports venues where amateurs can actually play on the same field of professionals. But, for Oakville, it’s even more than that; it’s green space that should be maintained as green space – good planning says it shouldn’t be developed. We’re thrilled.”