By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily
Have project, need developer.
With the community’s approval tucked in their back pocket, the stage is set for Granite Pointe Golf Course’s mixed-use residential and commercial project proposed on lands in Rosemont. Now all they need is for someone to design, build, market and sell the idea.
The board of directors for the golf course membership held a public meeting in City council chambers Monday night and attracted over 35 people, most of them supportive of the project to add 300 residential units and a commercial village centre to the golf course at the edge of the Rosemont neighbourhood.
In a subsequent City council meeting they passed third reading and adoption of a bylaw amendment to the Official Community Plan from park and open space to Granite Pointe Golf Course redevelopment lands.
But with the table set on the redesignation, the golf course board can now entertain prospective developers with the project and see who can pull it off. It will be no mean feat to bring someone in during the tough economic times besetting the real estate industry, said golf course director Oliver Berkley.
“We’re not close at all right now (on a developer),” he said. “It’s very preliminary although we have had some interest. We wanted to get through this process before we really tried to push that.”
It’s a cautious market for developers right now, he added, but the Granite Pointe project is a long term vision, not something they are trying to execute right away. The next move will be to “re-strategize” about how they are going to move forward and garner the support of the membership for it.
“It is extremely marketable to have a golf course already built,” said Berkeley. “Most developers have to build a golf course and that is what sinks them. And this is also a very unique opportunity because it is a community plan.”
And the community has supported it, said golf course board member Peter Muirhead, through the approval from City council Monday night.
The devil was in the details for some in the public hearing as many people questioned how infrastructure in the neighbourhood could carry the influx of new residences.
The details notwithstanding, the feasibility of the project was also raised on the ability of the project to be completed and sold in tough economic times.
Rosemont resident Richard Metzner, who has been a major part of the construction industry in Nelson for over 35 years, expressed his doubt about the capacity of the project to fly if it was indeed launched.
He pointed to the downturn in the local economy — which has greatly affected the construction industry — and the inability of other areas to pull off such projects and sell their units, as the reason council should not consider saddling the city with a potentially dead-end project.
Those questions would be answered in detail later in the process, said senior City planner Dave Wahn, once a developer was in place and a design was delivered.
Muirhead said they have already thought about the effect of the project in the neighbourhood, how they could minimize the strain on the infrastructure, and whether the project could be pulled off.
“The devil is in the details and that is the tough part and it will come with the zoning,” he said. “That’s when we’ll talk about traffic, we’ll talk about servicing, we’ll prove out those green principles that have to be done.”
No change to zoning at this time
First and second reading on an amendment to the Official Community Plan were passed by City council last month in order to redesignate the property (1123 West Richards St.) from park and open space to Granite Pointe Golf Course redevelopment lands, enabling a mixed commercial and residential development on the golf course lands.
There was no change sought to the zoning of the property at this time. However, the City planning department suggested an Official Community Plan text amendment to specify minimum requirements that will need to be met at the rezoning stage in the future if the project moves ahead.
The amendment deals with Smart Growth/LEED design, location for densities, a need for diversity in housing types and the inclusion of a commercial hub that is compatible to Baker Street.
The minimum requirements of the development will also be subject to a rezone application, a neighbourhood plan, a traffic impact study and an infrastructure and servicing plan.
The re-development would allow for a mixed residential and commercial neighbourhood, supporting approximately 300 residential units and a commercial village centre. The diversity of housing types include single-detached, multi-unit residential, seniors housing and affordable units, including some rental units.
History of the application
The conceptual plans for the golf course mixed use development first came to light at the municipal government level on Aug. 24, 2009. Eleven months later the application was forwarded to the City’s advisory planning commission.
Neighbourhood information meetings were held in the summer of 2009 and in November of 2010 with largely positive feedback on the proposal.
The golf course occupies approximately 53 hectares on two separate parcels of land (4.2 ha. falls within the Regional District of Central Kootenay).
Existing facilities at the golf course include the 18-hole course, a driving range, three tennis courts, surface parking, storage lockers and a clubhouse.
If the proposal moves forward with the selection of a developer and a concrete development plan is created, a public hearing pursuant to the Local Government Act will be scheduled.
Where the need came from
A revitalization plan by the non-profit golf course society to develop 300 homes and commercial space surrounding the course was deemed essential to the long-term viability of Granite Pointe.
The 28-acre concept and development plan was expected to help the club overcome the steep financial challenges they are faced with.
The club needs money and more members to meet the deficit and debt the course is beset with. Although Granite Pointe has gone from large, six-figure deficits 10 years ago — accrued after expansion from nine to 18 holes in 1989 — to a moderate positive cash flow stage, they aren't out of the woods and need help, said club treasurer, Dave Swain.
"We are by no means profitable to the point where we would be sustainable, and that in large part is what this proposal is about," he said. "We need to be generating $300,000 per year and instead we are generating $20,000. We're making slow steady progress but it is not sustainable."
Following the money
The board has looked at all of the opportunities to change the situation. The development proposal provides potential solutions to all of the challenges: providing capital from the sale of the property for the development; and increasing housing around the golf course would increase the revenue from memberships for the operation end.
Any money generated from the development will be given over to the improvements needed for the course, pegged at nearly $3 million. However, the fundamental issue isn't the debt the club has, said club director Oliver Berkeley, but the lack of members.
"The sale of the land is the least interesting part of it for the club, the real issue is to get more membership," he said. "If this doesn't work, then Granite Pointe Golf Course, in its present state, doesn't have a future."
Aim of the development
The local market for memberships is finite (around 450 currently at the club), said club president Gary Price, it is saturated and hypersensitive to cost. Granite Pointe needs 250 new members to survive.
The aim of the development is to bring new members, new residents, from other areas and into Nelson. They will use direct marketing, like in the case of Kootenay Lake Village, where 88 per cent of the 150-unit market has come from outside of the area.
"I think this project will be a lot like that, you have a lot of people out there right now who are choosing to relocate and Nelson could be one of those options," said Berkeley.
The expansion in 1989 created a stagnate debt that continues to negatively impact Granite Pointe's ability to re-invest into the club, and creates further operation shortfalls.