Whistle Bend residents to eat costs of Mountain View Golf Club bail out

When the Yukon government bailed out the Mountain View Golf Club in 2011 for $750,000, it left the bill for future residents of Whistle Bend.

When the Yukon government bailed out the Mountain View Golf Club in 2011 for $750,000, it left the bill for future residents of Whistle Bend.

By a rough calculation, the purchaser of a $130,000 single-family lot will have paid about $350 towards the deal.

Brad Cathers, who was the minister of community services when news of the deal broke last year, was made aware of this fact on Dec. 8, 2014, according to documents received by the News through an access-to-information request.

Still, when the NDP asked the government directly on Dec. 9, 10 and 18 if the cost of the golf club deal was passed on to Whistle Bend residents, the questions went unanswered.

“I’m not sure why they felt that they had to try so desperately to hide stuff,” said NDP Leader Liz Hanson in an interview this week.

“He misrepresented what the public servants had provided to him.

“It shows disrespect not just for the citizens but also for those people who serve the public through their service to the politicians.”

Cathers declined an interview request, but said in an email that he revealed where the money came from more than once in the legislative assembly, including during the budget debate on Dec. 16.

“If the member was listening, I actually answered that previously,” Cathers said on that day, in a response to a question for NDP MLA Kevin Barr on where the $750,000 can be found in the budget.

“I told him it was from the land development area of the budget and the money was paid in February of 2011, which I think should answer the member’s question.”

The NDP should know that land development expenditures are intended to be recovered through future land sales, Cathers wrote in the email.

The deal saw the golf club give up rights to a portion of land it had been sitting on for potential future development. It had signed a 30-year lease on the property at a cost of $125 per year.

There was also a conflict between the boundaries of the lease the golf course currently occupies and the planned boundaries of the Whistle Bend subdivision, and that issue was resolved through the deal as well.

The deal inked with the golf club states that government was interested in the expansion lease “to support potential future development in the area.”

But a $9,900 report commissioned by the government in 2010 found the area unsuitable for development. The City of Whitehorse said then and now that it would oppose the expansion of Whistle Bend into that parcel.

The true motive for acquiring that piece of land back from the golf club is revealed through internal correspondence, released through an access-to-information request.

They demonstrate that Archie Lang, then minister of community services, instructed his staff to come up with a way to help out the golf course with its $500,000 debt load.

In an interview this week, Mike Gau with the City of Whitehorse said he is not surprised the costs of the deal was passed on to Whistle Bend.

Residents benefited from the deal because it ended the boundary conflict with the subdivision, allowed for the construction of a perimeter trail and allowed for the use of the northern parcel of land to help with storm water management, he said.

Gau said he can’t comment on the appropriateness of the $750,000 price tag.

Mountain View’s financial woes did not end with the bail-out.

According to the publicly available financial fillings, the society has had a shortfall of revenues over expenses every year since.

Less than two years after the deal was reached, club president Tony Hill wrote to Premier Darrell Pasloski asking for help replacing the course’s aging sprinkler system, at an estimated cost of $1 million.

Hill – who is also the director of the agriculture branch of the Yukon government – asked Pasloski – who used to be on the golf club’s board – for the request to be considered “outside of the traditional annual community and recreation grant system.”

Hill declined an interview request for this story.

Pasloski has removed himself from discussions related to the club on advice of the territory’s conflict of interest commissioner.

The golf club’s request for funding was denied.

So too were two subsequent requests to the Community Development Fund, also for help with the sprinkler replacement.

These were denied on the basis that helping Mountain View would give it an unfair advantage over its private sector competitor, the Meadow Lakes golf club.

The fund’s guidelines specify that it “may not fund projects that compete with, or cause market disruption, for local for-profit businesses, except in those circumstances where there are defensible and significant benefits to the community or territory as a whole,” according to a Oct. 2014 letter from Economic Development Minister Currie Dixon to the golf club formally denying its most recent request.

The difference in how the previous government dealt with the request from Mountain View compared with this government’s response does not necessarily suggest a policy change, said cabinet spokesperson Dan MacDonald.

One fund’s policy does not equal the policy of government as a whole, he said.

Cathers has previously said that this government would have issued a news release about the Mountain View deal after it was completed. He has not indicated that this government takes any issue with other parts of how the deal was completed.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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