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Saanich increases fees at troubled golf course

Feb 22 2012

Saanich council split 5-4 in favour of increasing fees at Cedar Hill Golf Course after a heated public meeting Tuesday night.

Season pass holders will see a $9 increase in their fees over the next three years and will have reduced access to the course to allow more access for green-fee players.

But the actual fee increase was not the most contentious issue for the 200 people who came out to the third public meeting to talk about the growing deficit at the municipally owned golf course.

Many at the meeting were angry about lack of public consultation in dealing with financial problems at the golf course and restaurant.

The municipally owned facilities were projected to lose more than $800,000 in 2012. Both have been losing money for the past several years.

In January, council voted unanimously in favour of closing the full-service restaurant, which was projected to lose $521,000 this year, and replacing it with light food service. That decision was made at an in-camera meeting because personnel issues were also being discussed.

The restaurant, loved by many residents throughout the region but unknown to as many others, closed Saturday.

Many on Tuesday said they were surprised to learn about the financial difficulties at the restaurant and golf course and said they felt "blindsided" by the in-camera decision to close the restaurant.

"You are not the only people that are in charge," said Patricia Houston. "This belongs to all of us. . . . You need to consult with us as members of the community when things are not going well. We want to know — we want to know when the restaurant is in real trouble. We'll help."

Some speakers were in tears, while others shouted for the resignation of management and council.

Still others called for a six-month reprieve for the restaurant and many had suggestions for improving how the facilities are run.

Coun. Nichola Wade made a motion that recommended the fee increases, but also called for staff to have public consultation with golf users and the public to discuss how operations could be improved, keeping in mind the need for debt reduction. Staff will report back to council on those discussions.

The motion narrowly passed, with a deep split on council. Wade, councillors Paul Gerrard, Leif Wergeland and Susan Brice and Mayor Frank Leonard voted in favour of the motion.

Councillors Dean Murdock, Vic Derman, Vicki Sanders and Judy Brownoff voted against it, preferring a facilitated public consultation on all financial issues facing the operation, including food services.


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