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New housing plan slices golf at Bear Mountain

Nov 14 2012
Bear Mountain will be reorganizing. 

Bear Mountain will be reorganizing.

The Bear Mountain development wants to axe nine holes from its mountain golf course to make room for housing and shift its focus to low-density homes from highrise towers, says a plan obtained by the Times Colonist on Tuesday.

The proposal, drawn up by Bear Mountain Land Holdings, will be unveiled today at a public meeting from 4 to 9 p.m. at the resort.

It shows an earlier concept is to be slashed from more than 3,000 units to fewer than 2,000 and its two 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses will be cut to a total of 27 holes. A consultant's report said the two 18-hole courses were operating at less than 50 per cent capacity.

"We have been committed to solving the issues prevalent at Bear Mountain," said Gary Cowan, CEO of Bear Mountain Land Holdings, which has been running Bear Mountain's resort, golf courses and real estate holdings since November 2010 on behalf of owner HSBC Bank Canada.

City Spaces Consulting principal Gwyn Symmons, who worked with Bear Mountain in the last 15 months, said a 2006 concept plan for the area didn't suit the region, as it called for "a huge amount of density," with 2,810 condominiums and 3,273 total units.

"This community essentially needed to be right-sized in terms of its mix - 86 per cent [condos] is not a sustainable or a viable mix," Symmons said.

The plan calls for building new, detached homes - a proposed 435 compared to the 185 envisioned in 2006 - and trimming the number of condos to 1,281 in five neighbourhoods. There would also be an eight-kilometre walking and biking trail, more parkland and access to land previously accessible only to golfers.

To find space for new homes, Bear Mountain Holdings wants to use half of one of its golf courses and, in turn, solve another problem - too much golf course and not enough demand.

Jim McLaughlin, senior vice-president of operations of Troon Golf, the world's largest golf-management company, said the second course should never have been added.

"There was no demand for it ... it shouldn't have [been built]," McLaughlin said. "There's a golf-industry correction going on worldwide right now. Bear Mountain is a microcosm of what's going on overall.

Since 2006, almost 800 courses have closed in the U.S. alone."

The changes mean the mountain course would lose holes three through eight, as well as 11, 12 and 14, with modifications made to other holes. On the valley course, there will be renumbering to establish two nine-hole courses that loop back to the clubhouse.

Cowan said the company and Troon will meet with the club's 225 members this week to discuss the proposed changes. He said homeowners with golf course frontage will keep their views of the course.

"We are investing and trying to create long-term solutions for Bear Mountain," said Cowan, when asked if the resort and development lands are on the market. "They may be on the market after we create that solution, as we have always said the bank is not a long-term owner of residential developments."

HSBC took control of Bear Mountain in the fall of 2010 after an eight-month, court-ordered restructuring. Bear Mountain had been under creditor protection. Founder Len Barrie was removed as CEO in March 2010, at the behest of HSBC, the original financier, which was owed more than $250 million. aduffy@timescolonist.com

New Bear Mountain Master Plan

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