A massive redevelopment plan at a Saskatoon golf course neighbourhood has been voted down at Saskatoon City Council.
In a unanimous vote, councillors voted against approving a $40 million redevelopment plan which would have brought more housing, commercial development and a spa/hotel to The Willows neighbourhood.
“This has been a very challenging thing for me to consider because it’s essentially a very contentious and unpopular change within the neighborhood,” said Ward 7 Coun. Mairin Loewen during the meeting.
“This doesn’t come close to touching our density targets. It doesn’t provide densification close to corridors. It’s not infill growth within Circle Drive. So, it’s a very strange situation.”
The Willows is Saskatoon’s only golf course neighbourhood, with large lots built around a 27-hole golf course.
Earlier this year, DREAM Development approached the city with an ambitious $40 million plan to revitalize the area. The plan included building a Nordic spa in the neighbourhood, as well as adding a new commercial area where shops would be built.
The plan would revitalize the golf course’s aging infrastructure, including irrigation, and would shrink the course to 18 holes.
It would also bring in more housing with narrower lot sizes, and would add approximately 1,000 people to the neighbourhood. At the same time, new housing would be built as a normal residential neighbourhood, rather than condominiums, which is the current model for all housing in the neighbourhood.
That would mean services like road clearing would be provided by the City of Saskatoon for the new area, and by condominium boards for the existing homes, creating two different levels of service.
Opposition to the plan was fierce. Despite several changes to the plan, the majority of people in the neighbourhood were against the plan, stating that the new development would change the nature of the area.
“Based on The Willows community plan, residents and perspective residents were told they had certainty on the nature and character of their community,” said lawyer Glen McKay, speaking for home owners at the meeting.
“To change things more radically, respectfully submitted, is nothing more than a bait and switch.”
For its part, DREAM said that the changes were needed to make the neighbourhood financially viable into the future.
“A new business model and supporting concept is needed to support the club and maintain property values for home owners,” said DREAM manager Brad Zurevinski.
“Dealing with aging golf course infrastructure, like irrigation systems, has made it difficult for The Willows to be economically sustainable.”
While the current plan has been turned down, some councillors were hopeful that a solution could eventually be reached between the home owners and the developer.
“One of the main complaints that I heard from the residents was a lack of engagement,” said Ward 3 Coun. David Kirton.
“They’re not saying that this must stop. They’re saying that this particular proposal is not viable, but they are also suggesting alternatives. They do not expect nothing to happen.”
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