The John Blumberg Golf Course saga ramped up last week, as the city council’s property and development committee voted 3-1 to reject the proposed $13.7-million sale of the city-owned property on Monday, Jan. 17. The executive policy committee followed suit the following Wednesday, voting 4-3 against the sale.
While both committees went against the recommendation of the public service to sell, neither vote is the final word. The sale can still go through if it wins a two-thirds majority at city council.
"We’re disappointed that we haven’t received the support from council thus far," said Alan Klippenstein, director of real estate development at Schinkel Properties, the company that tendered the bid.
The proposed sale of the golf course, which is located in Headingley, has drawn ire from greenspace advocates. The site plan proposes the development of 339 single-family lots, 327 multi-family units and 13 acres of commercial space. Ninety per cent of the sale would go into the "transformative fund," first introduced in 2020 to reinvest profits from the sale of lands deemed surplus and repurposed golf courses into recreation, public greenspace and the tree canopy.
John Mauseth, mayor of the rural municipality of Headingley, said while he has a good working relationship with Schinkel Properties and respects its proposal, he opposes their bid.
"I would prefer to see the greenspace retention," he said. "I don’t want to speak on the behalf of (Winnipeg), but with a budget the size of theirs … this is a one-year contribution to their budget and that prime greenspace is gone forever."
However, Klippenstein said the greenspace argument is "overstated."
"I just can’t go walk my dog there in the summer without paying a green fee," he said. "So, this isn’t accessible space for everybody."
Klippenstein then pointed to his company’s plans, which include 36 acres of non-continuous parks and 13,000 feet of walking trails that would be available to the public.
Mauseth and the Headingley council also put in a bid for the property, but Mauseth said he doesn’t believe the proposal got its due consideration. He said he thinks that’s for one main reason.
"Ours didn’t have a financial reward attached to it. Our focus was on retaining the greenspace long term, and (Winnipeg) is looking to make some money, so they can invest in the city," Mauseth said.
Brian Campbell, who currently runs the golf course, also put in a bid but felt it was ignored for the same reasons.
Campbell said he didn’t offer to buy the land but rather to manage it for the next 10 years while installing public amenities, such as pickleball courts and walking paths near the river. He said he’s hopeful the council will "do the right thing" and strike down the sale, which he feels is short-sighted.
"I don’t think there’s any value in it," he said. "The City of Winnipeg complains about urban sprawl … and that’s exactly what they’re doing."
Coun. Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood), who has opposed the sale for months, expressed his concern about just this before voting against the sale.
"I have to consider that this would be a significant increase in sprawl, with taxes going to the RM of Headingley, while all the residents use Winnipeg free of charge," Klein said at the committee meeting.
He had also agreed with Mauseth, in that he said the city hadn’t negotiated "fairly — or at all — with the RM of Headingley."
City of Winnipeg manager of real estate and land development Marc Pittet said net cost to taxpayers to maintain the site was just over $18,000 in 2021.
At the property and development meeting, Couns. Janice Lukes (Waverley West), Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) and Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre) voted against the sale Coun. Vivian Santos (Point Douglas) was the lone vote in favour.
At the executive policy committee meeting Couns. Matt Allard (St. Boniface), Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre), Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge - East Fort Garry) and Brian Mayes (St. Vital) voted against the sale, while Mayor Brian Bowman and Couns. Scott Gillingham (St. James) and Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) voted to approve the sale.
Cody Sellar is the reporter/photographer for The Times. He is a lifelong Winnipegger. He is a journalist, writer, sleuth, sloth, reader of books and lover of terse biographies. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 204-697-7206.