Arguing that the cure is worse than the disease, a new organization has been formed to fight Bear Mountain Resort’s plans to cut its two 18-hole golf courses into three nine-hole courses and expand development on Skirt Mountain.
The Bear Mountain Community Association this week launched an awareness campaign including a petition, door-to-door meetings and letter writing to members of the City of Langford’s planning committee as it tries to slow down the resort’s plans.
“We have put together the BMCA to try and fight the rezoning application,” said Brian Dunne, one of the organizers. “If we can stop the rezoning, at least temporarily, then possibly they will be forced to move in another direction. Maybe they will have to put it on the market and sell it, and hopefully someone else will come in with a different view that this golf course is worth saving.”
Last month, Bear Mountain Land Holdings, which manages the resort’s two golf courses, hotel and real estate holdings for owners HSBC Canada, unveiled what it considers a plan to secure the long-term future of the resort.
The plan slashes an earlier development concept from more than 3,000 total units to fewer than 2,000, and its two 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses will be cut down to 27 holes.
The plan calls for new detached homes — a proposed 435 compared to the 185 conceived of in 2006 — and trims the number of possible condos to 1,281 in five neighbourhoods.
There are also plans for an eight-kilometre walking and biking trail, more parkland and access to land previously accessible only to golfers.
Bear Mountain Holdings proposes to use half of one of its golf courses for some of those new homes, and in turn it expects to solve the money-losing proposition of running 36-holes when demand is waning.
But by doing so, the BMCA argues, the resort is cutting its own throat.
“What they are doing is cutting the heart out of the golf course. They are destroying themselves,” said Dunne, one of the course’s early members. “What is this project up here without these golf courses?”
Louis Barbeau, one of the golf course’s original members, said he agrees with Bear Mountain Land Holdings’ assertion there wasn’t enough demand to warrant a second golf course, but the Bear Mountain resident said there has to be a better option than cutting away nine holes.
“Once they [develop on the course], there’s no turning back,” he said, noting not only will Langford lose its only 18-hole golf course — the other Bear Mountain course is in Highlands — the Bear Mountain golf brand will lose its lustre and people who have invested in homes in the area could face reduced property values.
Bear Mountain Land Holdings CEO Gary Cowan said he has heard and understands the concerns of the golf membership, but he said the long-term viability of the resort is foremost in the company’s considerations.
“We have to have a viable real estate plan that can stand the test of time. Right now, we don’t have that, and we have a golf facility that is significantly overbuilt,” he said.
“We don’t like to make these kinds of decisions either, but we believe very strongly that this is in the best interest of Bear Mountain going forward and consistent with what we feel any developer would have to do to move this project forward.”
Cowan also said closing one course entirely and letting it sit fallow until the economy improves and demand picks up, as the BMCA has suggested, is not a viable option.
“It’s overbuilt, period,” he said. “And if you did let it sit three to five years, you basically have to plow it under and start again. You can’t restart by mowing a lawn. You have to recreate greens and fairways again, and that’s very expensive.”
Bear Mountain Land Holdings hopes to meet with Langford’s planning committee in February before entering into the rezoning process with the city.
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