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golf driving range

By Loreth Beswetherick The original 18-month deadline for a deal to save an environmentally-sensitive stand of alluvial spruce from becoming the Park Georgia golf driving range is up, but no one is going to pull the plug yet. The Park Georgia Group planned to construct a driving range and teaching facility on marshy and treed land it owns along Fitzsimmons Creek, across Blackcomb Way from the Montebello townhomes. Following public outcry, however, Whistler council in 1998 gave Park Georgia 18 months to hammer out an alternate deal that would see the driving range relocated to a less environmentally sensitive 5.5 hectare parcel near the sixth hole on the Chateau Whistler golf course. The developers would then dedicate the sensitive land back to the municipality for parkland in return for a tax receipt to the tune of about $3 million. The deadline to hammer out the deal expired last month but all the parties involved are still working hard on making it work and the ball is now in the province’s court. The B.C. Assets and Lands Corporation has the final say on whether the plan can go ahead. As BCAL’s Neil Turner explained, the new 5.5 hectare parcel tagged for the golf driving range is currently tenured to the RMOW as part of the Lost Lake parkland. Once it ceases being used for park purposes, title reverts back to the Crown. The municipality has thus applied to BCAL to use the piece of parkland for a golf driving range in exchange for the environmentally-sensitive Park Georgia parcel along Fitzsimmons Creek. "We have to decide if taking that small parcel out of the (Lost Lake parkland) will affect the land use and, if it does, then what is the province and the public going to get in exchange for the loss of use of that land," said Turner. "We also have to see if the land they are proposing to exchange is equitable." Turner said generally an application to use tenured parkland for something other than park purposes takes at minimum six months to work its way through the approval process. He said the Park Georgia case, however, is complicated and will take longer. "We have just recently received the application. It is in the initial review stage. It’s a little quirky... we have to decide if this is something the provincial government wants to see happen," said Turner. "The RMOW has done a lot of work. They are doing what they can to get the application through, and we appreciate that, but I would say we are talking longer than six months." Municipal director of parks and recreation, Bill Barratt, made the case for the deal to BCAL. He said it is now out of municipal hands as it grinds its way through the provincial process. "The fact they have actually assigned somebody to it and given us a file number is encouraging," Barratt said. Park Georgia consultant Jim Moodie said the developers will still have to survey and raise title for the land plus wrap up the three-way deal with the municipality and the Chateau Whistler. "At this point it is still a matter of getting to first base, which is having B.C. Assets and Lands say that the fundamentals of the deal are okay," said Moodie. He said although D-day has passed things are still making progress, albeit slowly. "It’s a best efforts thing. As long as everybody is moving forward then none of the parties are interested in saying, all right, the deadline has passed and it all falls apart."