Bear Mountain developers plan to remove nine holes of golf to make room for more low-density housing and open space.
At an open house last Wednesday executives of the resort and residential community unveiled the plan to the public. More than 300 people attended to hear about turning the golf course from a 36 to a 27-hole course and the future of Bear Mountain.
“I would say by far and away more positive reaction than negative, for sure,” CEO Gary Cowan said. “I think there’s lots of good things about the plan.”
Changes to the golf course won’t be carried out for at least two years as the developer goes through rezoning applications with the City of Langford and finishes already-approved developments.
Cowan said for over a year executives have been working to come up with a new development plan. Cowan and Bear Mountain Land Holdings, owned by HSBC Bank, took over the reigns in 2010.
“We’re looking to put forward a plan a viable development plan that really sets up Bear Mountain for long-term success,” Cowan said. “We believe this plan … will get the cloud off of Bear Mountain.”
The 2006 development plan Cowan inherited consisted of 86 per cent multifamily dwellings, such as high-rise condominium complexes.
“In my view it was a very, very aggressive plan that even in the most robust and strong real estate markets, probably wouldn’t have worked,” Cowan said. “There has to be a balance of single family, townhouse and some apartments.”
Under the new plan the development will consist of 66 per cent apartments and 23 per cent detached homes.
Changing that plan to include more low-density, ground oriented residential housing requires more land. That need, combined with a golf course operating at less than 50 per cent capacity, led to the idea of turning nine holes of golf into land for housing.
The nine holes will be removed from the Mountain Course. What will remain is 27 holes, divided into three nine-hole golf courses that can be played in any combination.
Jim McLaughlin, senior vice president of Troon Privé, which oversees golf at Bear Mountain, said the modifications may upset some but the quality of golf will still be high.
“It’s never a great thing for them to hear that some of their favourite golf holes, a hole that they made a hole-in-one on, won’t be there anymore,” McLaughlin said. “But for the visitor, for the tourist, they’re not attached to the current layout at all.”
Worldwide, golf courses have been struggling, McLaughlin said, with supply far outweighing demand. Reducing the size of the course will reduce maintenance costs and 27-hole courses are not uncommon.
The ultimate vision is to have five neighbourhoods. Cowan said it is hoped that with more residents on the mountain more retail stores will move into the village. Twelve lots are already on the market for the new Hedgestone neighbourhood, with one sold so far.
The plan also includes the increased open space and trails for the community.
The roadway to the Leigh Road Interchange, known locally as the “bridge to nowhere,” will also be completed as a part of the development.