Green space advocates fighting to stop the $13.7-million proposed sale and development of John Blumberg Golf Course have won a key battle.
Winnipeg council’s property and development committee rejected the sale of the city-owned recreation facility in a 3-1 vote Monday.
Schinkel Properties is seeking to purchase and replace the 199-acre site in the Rural Municipality of Headingley with 339 single-family lots, 13 acres of commercial land, 29 acres of multi-family property and 36 acres of parkland over the next decade.
Monday’s decision comes despite the fact some new green space is included in the proposal, Schinkel Properties said.
"Green space is an important consideration in this design… we’ve designated a significant portion of this land to public green space… We envision putting a large park right near the river and we’re incorporating 13,000 feet for walking trails within there as well," Alan Klippenstein, company director of real estate development, told the Free Press.
Klippenstein questioned whether the golf course as is should be considered an accessible green space, since patrons must pay a fee to use it. By contrast, parks in the proposed development would be open for public use with no cost, he said.
At Monday’s committee meeting, several parks and open space advocates asked councillors to cancel the sale. Many stressed it would contradict a long-term goal to add considerable green space within city limits, which council approved just last year.
"With a visionary plan to purchase 1,000 acres of green space, it makes no sense to start off… by selling (green space) that the city already owns in a developed neighbourhood," said Muriel St. John, a member of Outdoor Urban Recreational Spaces-Winnipeg.
The organization’s online petition to stop the golf course sale had attracted 2,000 signatures by Monday afternoon.
St. John suggested the City of Winnipeg could keep the land and expand its public uses instead, such as by adding a biodiversity walkway along the river and providing cross-country ski access in the winter.
She argued the 200-acre space would be tough to replace within city limits. It offers considerable environmental benefits, with trees that help absorb carbon and drain excess water, "Once this land has been developed, there is no going back," said St. John.
Coun. Cindy Gilroy, head of the property and development committee, agreed with advocates protecting natural spaces is critical as the city works to mitigate climate change.
"Getting rid of green space (as we try to) increase it (elsewhere), just doesn’t sit well with me," Gilroy told the Free Press.
Couns. Kevin Klein and Janice Lukes also opposed the sale, while Coun. Vivian Santos cast the sole vote in favour of it Monday evening.
However, the committee’s decision is not final.
The sale can proceed, if two-thirds of Winnipeg city council members support it in a final vote. The development also requires some clearances from the Rural Municipality of Headingley.
If the land is sold, the city plans to invest 90 per cent of net proceeds in a potential "transformative fund" that supports recreation, green space and the tree canopy within city limits. The rest of the sale profits would go to Winnipeg Golf Services.
The city first declared the golf course surplus to its needs in 2013.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.