Mayes throws council off course
New addition cuts into centre-right majority
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/12/2011 (4014 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg’s newest elected official has changed the dynamic of city council even though he has yet to try out his new seat.
Councillor-elect Brian Mayes, who won the Nov. 26 St. Vital byelection, will be sworn in this morning to a 16-member city council where Mayor Sam Katz presides over a slightly diminished centre-right majority. Former councillor Gord Steeves tended to vote alongside Katz.
The NDP-affiliated, labour-backed Mayes is expected to join an unofficial centre-left opposition that has regained six votes — just enough legislative muscle to defeat motions that require a two-thirds majority of council to pass.
This is important because early in the new year, council may consider a plan to sell as many as seven of the City of Winnipeg’s golf courses, a move that would require 11 votes to pass.
Two of those properties, the nine-hole Winnipeg Canoe Club Golf Course and the 18-hole Windsor Park Golf Course, are located within St. Vital. While council has yet to see any redevelopment proposals for these courses, Mayes said he’s unlikely to support any plan that involves the loss of green space in his new ward.
“I plan to take a long, hard look at any proposal that comes forward,” said Mayes, who will formally become a councillor at this morning’s special meeting to debate the 2012 capital budget.
In October, the city issued a formal call for ideas from developers and non-profit organizations interested in purchasing, redeveloping or taking over the leases of seven underperforming city golf courses. Over time, the city agency responsible for 12 golf courses has racked up $8 million in debt.
But the idea of parting with seven of these courses is motivated not just by a desire to eliminate debt, but to possibly generate ongoing revenue for the city in the form of property taxes from new residential and commercial developments on golf-course land.
“They are highly valuable properties,” said Phil Sheegl, Winnipeg’s chief administrative officer. For example, he said, it may be desirable to consolidate the Windsor Park and St. Boniface courses and build on part of the land.
“Maybe there’s some common ground between them where you can make them into 27 holes or 18 really nice holes and you do some development there,” Sheegl said. “It’s not just the cash you get up front from these things, but the tax revenue (they) generate later.”
Since issuing a call for ideas, the city has received at least 21 proposals, Sheegl said.
One is a request from the Cross-Country Ski Association of Manitoba to retain access to the Windsor Park course, where the non-profit organization runs a ski course with eight kilometres of trails used by just under 1,000 season-pass holders.
“Our concern would be whoever takes over the site would not want to work with us to continue to have it as a Nordic centre during the winter,” said Karin McSherry, executive director of the association. “We also can’t develop any further until we know we’re in there for a long time.”
Sheegl said he’s aware of skiers’ concerns and pledges none of the ideas city staff will bring forward to council for any of the courses will be “barrelled down people’s throats.”