Cristina Sousa

Decision to close golf course restaurant was contrary to staff recommendation

According to documents obtained by the News, Saanich council chose an option that was more severe than what their staff suggested.

The closed door decision to shut down the restaurant at the municipally owned Cedar Hill golf course was made despite a recommendation from staff to give the facility another chance.

According to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Saanich’s mayor and councillors chose an option that was more severe than what their staff suggested.

A joint report from the directors of finance and parks and recreation recommended the restaurant remain open, but only at peak times (in the summer and around Christmas).

“Should this approach not prove successful, the next step would be to close the restaurant operation entirely,” read the report, dated Dec. 5, 2011. Keeping the restaurant open in this manner “will determine if the food and beverage operation is economically viable in this location.”

The report first went before council at an in-camera meeting on Dec. 12.

On Jan. 9, 2012, also in-camera, council voted to close the restaurant.

Three other options were presented to council in the report. Each focused on how much Saanich would have to subsidize the course, and each was accompanied by a list of pros and cons for the municipality.

Maintaining the status quo, the report said, would require an $819,000 subsidy in 2012 and would result in either a 0.9-per-cent property tax increase, or a 1.5-per-cent budget reduction for all municipal departments. A partial subsidy of $482,000 would need to be funded by either a 0.5-per-cent tax increase, or a 1-per-cent budget reduction. An outright outsourcing of the golf course and food service would require no subsidy, but could have negative impacts on the golfers and community.

“Adding the financial burden of budgeting for an annual golf subsidy … will increase the difficulty of achieving a reasonable property tax lift in 2012 and shift away from the council mandate for the (golf course) to be self sufficient,” the report reads.

Coun. Vicki Sanders said a very tight budget was the reason the more drastic decision was made to close the restaurant.

“The decisions were based on what we heard during the election – they want their council to be fiscally responsible,” she said.

The changes decided on – closing the restaurant, and not increasing taxes – struck “a balance” between financial prudency and maintaining municipal services, Sanders added.

Coun. Susan Brice agreed. “I think all of us came to the decision that it would not be supported by the public to continue subsidizing the food service aspect of the operation,” she said. “Food service is an area that we didn’t feel would be an essential component to the success of the golf course.”

The News attempted to ask all members of council why they voted to close the restaurant when staff’s advice was to keep it open.

Councillors Dean Murdock and Judy Brownoff said it was part of an overall need to restructure food service at the golf course.

Councillors Nichola Wade and Paul Gerrard said the decision was made too long ago for them to remember why it happened.

Coun. Vic Derman didn’t want to talk about an in-camera decision without consulting first with the municipal solicitor.

Coun. Leif Wergeland did not return requests for comment.

And Mayor Frank Leonard said: “No comment.”

Doug Henderson, director of parks and rec, said no matter the option council chose, “some pretty substantial changes” were going to come.

“For a variety of reasons, (council) landed on one particular approach, and that’s the way we went,” added Paul Murray, director of finance, noting that a variety of options was presented.

The restaurant closed on Feb. 17, and now sits unused most of the time.

What that space will be used for remains unknown for now, but Henderson said it’s a topic that will be considered publicly.

Even with the restaurant’s closure, the golf course is expected to face a $720,000 deficit in 2012. To help offset part of that, the cost to play a round goes up as of Sunday (April 1).

Earlier this year council voted 5-4 to support a plan that will see the cost of an annual pass rise $37 to $1,087 for a restricted pass. A full pass is going up $68 to $1,418. Green fees will jump $5, to $45 on the weekends and $40 on weekdays.

“I don’t think anybody’s expecting a 180-degree turnaround (this year),” Henderson said, acknowledging that the changes will likely keep some people away. “I think we still provide one of the best value opportunities for folks, in terms of golf. It’ll just take a bit of time to build (the business).”

kslavin@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

Cycslists were all smiles during ninth Tour de Victoria

More than 2,100 cyclists participated

‘I’m just absolutely disgusted’: Husband furious after Const. Beckett’s killer gets day parole

Kenneth Fenton was sentenced to prison after he fatally struck Const. Sarah Beckett’s cruiser

Police investigating incident in Saanich neighbourhood

Neighbours tell Black Press Media that a body has been found, but police remain tight-lipped.

Langford lizard sighting excites Victoria museum curator

Curator of vertebrate zoology/knowledge explains the spread of the Wall lizard in the region

Colwood man takes on Ride to Conquer Cancer for 11th year in a row

Team Finn has raised almost $3 million for BC Cancer Foundation

VIDEO: Langley Ribfest met with protesters

Groups that oppose the event for various reasons plan to be on site each of the three days.

Canadians killed in Afghanistan honoured during emotional dedication ceremony

One-hundred-fifty-eight Canadian soldiers died during the mission

It’s snow joke: Up to 30 cm of snow expected to fall in northeastern B.C.

Alaska Highway, Fort Nelson to be hit with August snowstorm, according to Environment Canada

Sea-to-Sky Gondola in B.C. likely out of commission until 2020

Sea to Sky Gondola carries between 1,500 and 3,000 people every day during the summer season

Helicopter-riding dog Mr. Bentley now featured on cans of new B.C.-made beer

Partial proceeds from every pack go to Children’s Wish

PHOTOS: Weapons seized at Portland right-wing rally, counterprotests

Not all who gathered Saturday were with right-wing groups or antifa

Ferries employees participating in Denman Island cleanup for plastic-shedding ferry

The cleanup comes a few weeks after one organized by residents of the Island

Discussion on grief and loss between Stephen Colbert, Anderson Cooper goes viral

The exchange includes emotional question from Cooper, and outlook on grief as a child

Toronto activist calling on federal parties to nominate more black candidates

Fewer than 20 black Canadians have been nominated so far, including some Liberal MPs seeking re-election

Most Read