Saanich council prepares for public input on Cedar Hill golf course

Budget meeting at Colquitz middle school tonight on reversing golf course deficit

If last night’s council meeting was any indication, tonight’s budget talks on reducing the $820,000 Cedar Hill golf course deficit will be very heated – and very well-attended.

Nearly 100 residents turned out to municipal hall on Monday to listen to council debate a recommendation that would’ve seen Saanich staff formalize a process to gather public input on the future of the golf course.

“It’s shameful we didn’t start this conversation with an open door,” said Coun. Dean Murdock, referring to council’s in-camera decision to close to clubhouse restaurant, which alone is nearly $500,000 in the red.

Murdock and fellow councillors Judy Brownoff, Vicki Sanders and Vic Derman (the latter was absent from the meeting) feel Saanich can gain a lot from listening to community members. They also criticized staff for moving too fast on the issue.

“When it comes to this multi-million-dollar operation, with tens of thousands of users, we’re putting all the discussion into one week,” Murdock said, adding that the backyard chicken debate lasted 18 months and included multiple public meetings.

Mayor Frank Leonard convinced council to postpone voting on the public engagement recommendation until Feb. 21.

Two meetings are already scheduled to hear from the public on the golf course deficit (tonight, 7:30 p.m., Colquitz middle school; Feb. 21, 7:30 p.m., Garth Homer Society).

The mayor suggested waiting until that input is heard to give direction to staff.

“There are short-term and long-term discussions that need to be had,” Leonard said. Short-term, council needs to approve passholder and green fee rates at the golf course for the 2012-13 season; in the long-term, council needs to make greater decisions on the financial viability of the golf course operations.

Coun. Susan Brice also made it clear to attendees that council has no plans to close the golf course.

kslavin@saanichnews.com