Amid lease dispute, worries that golf course in Qualicum Beach will drop to nine holes

An update on lease negotiations between Eaglecrest Golf Club and the Town of Qualicum Beach is expected today, with members worried the number of holes will be reduced to nine from 18.

The town and Eaglecrest owner Semiahmoo Golf Centre Ltd. of Vancouver have been unable to agree on the annual lease rate for municipal land within the course. The previous five-year lease expired at the end of December.

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Eaglecrest’s owner sought a new five-year lease based on previous rates, calling a proposed increase unaffordable. Golf club members have received emails saying the course would become a nine-hole facility in April.

Mayor Brian Wiese said ­Tuesday the town plans to release a statement this ­morning.

Wiese said in a recent public letter that Qualicum Beach “fully supports and encourages” continued operation of Eaglecrest Golf Course as an 18-hole course. “We consider the golf course to be an integral part of our community, and we will continue to seek a compromise with the ownership at Eaglecrest to renew the lease agreements and keep the 18-hole course in operation.”

He also apologized to Eaglecrest for “any miscommunication around the lease renewal process and the delay this created.”

The golf club leases the 17th fairway, at 5.7 acres, and the 18th tee box, about one acre, from the town.

According to the town, past rates were $1,902 for the 17th fairway and $376 for the 18th tee box.

Last year, the town initially sought staged increases over five years, rising to $5,286 for the 17th tee and $897 for the 18th tee box, for a total of $6,183 including GST.

It said previous rates were below what others paid to lease property.

That proposal was rejected by the owner. Lixin (known as Lisa) Liu of Vancouver is listed in provincial documents as the director of Semiahmoo.

Qualicum Beach subsequently knocked its proposal down to the same rates as in the past, with an annual two per cent increase starting next year.

A Feb. 3 council meeting heard that Eaglecrest had turned that down.

The dispute raised fears among area residents that decreasing the number of holes might open up the possibility of housing development on land not used for golf.

Coun. Scott Harrison won support for his Feb. 3 motion at council stating that the town wants to see the 18-hole course continue and that “council would not consider any applications that would undermine that use.”

Many emails have come in to council members, he said.

“A lot of people are worried. Are we going to change the reality on the ground? I don’t think that’s the intent for any of us.”

“We do want to be supportive of the business but we are not going to go down that road.”

The course is zoned for recreation use. It is not in the agricultural land reserve.

Coun. Teunis Westbroek said the course is “part of our attractiveness for people to move here, to live here and to play golf.”

John D’Aigle, president of the Eaglecrest Men’s Club, is looking at switching to another 18-hole course. Another 25 members are leaving because they do not want to play a nine-hole course.

“I don’t really want to leave Eaglecrest. None of us do. We like it there, we like the course.”

D’Aigle enjoys the challenge of playing 18 different holes.

Some of the best holes would be eliminated under a nine-hole configuration, he said.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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