OTTAWA -- The owner of a golf course in Kanata Lakes has the right to build a housing development on the land, Ontario’s top court ruled on Friday.

ClubLink won its appeal regarding the Kanata Golf and Country Club, dealing a major legal blow to the city and local residents in their efforts to preserve green space.

The ruling means the golf course, which opened in 1968, could soon close against the wishes of many nearby homeowners.

The Ontario Court of Appeal decision reverses a lower court ruling that would have banned the company from building a new subdivision on the site.

Mayor Jim Watson said in a statement Friday he is “greatly disappointed” in the court’s decision, and said the city will be seeking leave to appeal at the Supreme Court of Canada.

Member of Parliament Jenna Sudds, who fought against the ClubLink plan as a city councillor, also expressed disappointment in the ruling.

"My heart hurts today for our Kanata community," she wrote. "I can't put to words my disappointment in this ruling. Stay strong. We've come a long way and we'll continue fighting."

In October,2019, ClubLink formally applied to the city to bulldoze the golf course and build more homes. ClubLink and its developers, Minto Communities and Richcraft Homes, promised a new community of more than 1,500 homes with a minimum 25 per cent greenspace.

At issue was the so-called ’40 per cent agreement,’ a 1981 agreement signed between the then-city of Kanata and developers that said at least 40 per cent of the property must be kept as green space.

In February, Ontario Superior Court Justice Marc Labrosse ruled the agreement "continues to be a valid and binding contract."

But Friday's ruling by the three-judge panel says the agreement was important, but not an ironclad protection of green space forever. The agreement, the ruling said, "applies to extinguish an interest in land if the interest does not vest within 21 years."

"The owners have operated the golf course for more than 21 years," the ruling said. "Neither the City’s right to a conveyance nor ClubLink’s right to a reconveyance have vested within the perpetuity period. As a result, these contingent interests in the golf course lands are now void."

The Kanata Greenspace Protection Coalition, a not-for-profit group, said in a statement it was "deeply disappointed and frustrated" by the decision, but is not giving up.

"Our resolve remains steadfast to continue to defend our 175 acces of green and open space," the statement said.

"It is truly disappointing that ClubLink Corporation and local developers Minto Communities and Richcraft Homes continue to push this destructive plan," said Barbara Ramsay, the group's chair. "We'll continue to pursue all avenues to stop them."

Local residents expressed dismay at the decision.

"There's not a single resident that is in favour of this development," said Ken Dick, whose home backs onto the course. "They are showing total disrespect and disregard for a community."

"I'm at a loss for words as to how this could happen."

Watson suggested that he will ask Ontario's municipal affairs and housing minister Steve Clark to intervene to save the course. In a similar case involving Glen Abbey golf course in Oakville, Clark secured an agreement with ClubLink not to redevelop the land.

In a memo to council Friday afternoon, city solicitor David White said, "Based on the court's decision, the City would no longer have a right to demand reconveyance of the land if ClubLink stops operating the golf course."

"However, the Court did not invalidate any other sections of the 40% Agreement (as requested by ClubLink), or any other agreement relating to the golf course."

White says as of today and pending further rulings:

  • ClubLink still has an obligation to operate the golf course in perpetuity (section 5(1) of the 40% Percent Agreement).
  • The City still has a right of first refusal if ClubLink tries to sell the golf course (section 5(3) of the 40% Percent Agreement).
  • If ClubLink does sell the golf course, it must ensure that the new owner enters into an agreement to preserve the golf course in perpetuity

Friday's ruling also requires the city to pay ClubLink's legal costs, which amount to $59,000.

You can read the full ruling here.

- with files from Tyler Fleming, CTV News Ottawa