Chestermere residents had their first opportunities to hear a development company’s early ideas for a proposed residential and retail development on the city’s local golf course on March 9 and 11.
Slokker Homes, the company that intends to develop a new neighbourhood atop the existing Lakeside Golf Club, hosted two information sessions pertaining to the area’s potential future.
Throughout the presentations, representatives from Slokker Homes and O2 Planning and Design – a planning, urban design and landscape architecture firm based out of Calgary – spoke about their proposal’s potential. According to the session host, more than 130 Chestermere residents tuned into the first meeting.
“As planners and urban designers, we do feel this is a fantastic opportunity for Chestermere to create a distinct centre and to be able to provide residents a viable and vibrant town centre, new parks and public spaces and all the amenities that come with a true town centre for a city the size of Chestermere,” said Brian Horton, the principal of O2 Planning and Design.
Horton said the company’s development plan would be focused around a mixed-use centre anchored by a Main Street concept, similar to examples in Calgary like Kensington, Bridgeland and Marda Loop. He said the neighbourhood would be developed with a focus on walkability and bikeability, while incorporating some of the Lakeside Golf Club’s existing green space and adding various sport and recreation amenities, such as tennis courts, cross-country skiing paths, skating rinks and playgrounds.
“We feel this is an opportunity to create more publicly accessible open space and foster alternative modes of transportation other than cars, so walking, cycling and the potential of transit that would connect to Calgary,” Horton said.
Slokker Homes is proposing to develop 1,200 homes, according to the presentation. The developer’s chief executive officer, Peter Paauw, said about half of the homes would be single-family with large setbacks, while the other half would feature higher-density townhouses and apartments built above and closer to the proposed Main Street.
Horton added the new neighbourhood would generate more than $3 million a year toward the City of Chestermere’s annual tax base and help keep dollars in the city that would otherwise go to businesses in Calgary.
“There’s a real risk that with the expansion of Calgary, especially to the east…there’s a real pull of the economy out of Chestermere, in terms of the shops, services and housing to that area of Calgary,” he said. “We think the redevelopment of Lakeside could counter this pull. Its location within the centre of Chestermere [presents] the opportunity to become a true urban centre, where shops and services [would be located], jobs could be created and new open spaces provided…would really be an alternative to Calgary.”
For months, Chestermere residents have expressed concern about the proposed redevelopment of the city’s only golf course, which has operated next to Chestermere Lake for nearly 30 years.
After the first info session, the Lakeside Greens Golf Course Preservation Society – which formed in September 2020 in response to Slokker Homes’ intentions – released a statement that reiterated the society does not support the company’s plans for Lakeside’s future. The society's petition against the course's redevelopment now has more than 3,100 signatures.
“As expected, Slokker Homes’ presented a vision for Lakeside Golf Course that was difficult to hear,” read the statement. “Chestermere is a better place with a vibrant, well maintained golf course. Twelve-hundred planned new homes is not what Chestermere needs. The lake and the golf course are landmarks in Chestermere worth protecting.”
At the information session on March 9, Paauw and Horton answered questions submitted ahead of time by media representatives and Chestermere residents. The questions ranged from why Slokker Homes would not consider locating its neighbourhood on the outskirts of Chestermere, such as the Dawson's Landing and Chelsea communities currently under development, and why the Lakeside Golf Club could not be listed for sale.
Other questions asked how the development would impact property values and why Chestermere cannot maintain a viable local golf course, while smaller communities in Alberta are able to maintain theirs.
In answering questions about the golf club, Paauw repeatedly stressed the course is not financially feasible, having posted significant losses in the last five years. Slokker Homes commissioned accounting firm MNP to review the golf club’s financial records from 2014 to 2019, which found the club was operating on a revenue shortfall of 32 per cent annually.
“We understand the grief about the loss of the golf course,” Paauw said. “Quite frankly, the golf course now is – and will be in the future – not a feasible operation. The shortfall of 32 per cent in revenue is too big, and there are no examples anywhere of where you could make that up in such a competitive environment.”
Paauw claimed the local golf industry is saturated, as there are 52 golf courses within a 20-mile radius of Chestermere.
“That’s a lot of golf courses and growth of population notwithstanding, there is no growth in the use of golf courses,” he said. “Reinvesting money in a golf course that does not have any opportunity to increase revenues, there is no example of any other golf course in the greater Calgary area that has done that successfully.”
But residents – particularly those who live near the golf course – remain adamant the Lakeside Golf Club should be maintained or sold to a new owner.
In their statement after the first meeting, the preservation society promised they would continue to fight for the golf course’s future.
“Slokker Homes may say whatever they like in furtherance of their development,” it stated. “At the end of the day, only the City of Chestermere can prevent our golf course from being rezoned and developed. Qualified and knowledgeable golf industry analysts are forecasting a bright future for golf courses, and Chestermere is a community that can easily sustain and support ours.”
According to Paauw, Slokker Homes anticipates submitting a formal application to the City of Chestermere to kick-start the rezoning and redevelopment process later this year. Pending City approvals, he added the timeline for the development of the company’s proposed neighbourhood would last about 10 years, at least.
Scott Strasser, AirdrieToday.com
Follow me on Twitter @scottstrasser19