Oakville council votes to give Glen Abbey heritage status

Glen Abbey, one of Canada's most famous golf courses. (Nathan Denette/CP)

TORONTO — Glen Abbey, one of Canada’s most famous golf courses, received some protection from potential redevelopment into a residential and commercial complex on Monday night.

Town council voted unanimously in favour of designating the golf course — which has hosted the Canadian Open more times than any other — under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Glen Abbey owner ClubLink has proposed development that would see the course become a mix of some 3,200 residential units as well as office and retail space.

Following the vote before a packed council chamber, Mayor Rob Burton said council had heard the concerns of residents who want to keep the course intact.

"I think I can summarize what I heard as people saying that Glen Abbey is Oakville and Oakville is Glen Abbey," he said.

"There’s a lot more to Oakville than Glen Abbey in my humble opinion, but I certainly think there’s a lot of weight in what they said to that effect."

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Why was Glen Abbey Golf Course designated a heritage site?
Originally aired August 22 2017

Burton said before the vote that a heritage designation means there are rules to be followed when it comes to preserving heritage attributes of a property, but added there was still "flexibility" and an appeals process.

"I do know that heritage is our past and heritage is our future and I know that this town has taken a strong leadership role in the conservation of its heritage resources," Burton said outside council chambers.

Fraser Damoff, a spokesman for the Save Glen Abbey Coalition, a group fighting to stop the development, earlier described the golf course as a "gem" for Canadian golf and part of the town’s identity.

Golf legend Jack Nicklaus designed the course, which opened 40 years ago. The Canadian Golf Museum and Hall of Fame and Golf Canada offices are housed on the site, which has hosted the Canadian Open 29 times and is slated to host it again next year.

"Oakville as a whole has built around Glen Abbey over the years. It’s been central to the design of the town. Certainly when a lot of people think Oakville, they think of Glen Abbey," Damoff said.

"As other areas of Oakville were swallowed up by single detached homes, it became more and more important for Glen Abbey to stay as it is."

The movement to protect the course was given a boost after the Canadian Open in July, when winner Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela said he wants the club to stay open.

"I’m going to be one of the biggest voices to keep this course open, especially if I keep winning here," said Vegas. "I’ll definitely make a statement on trying to keep Glen Abbey going."

Burton said prior to the vote that the Canadian Open at Glen Abbey has shown off Oakville to the world.

"That’s a pretty valuable image and stature for the town of Oakville in the global competition for investment and business," he said, adding that the golf tournament brings in millions in visitor spending.

"It costs us a significant amount of money to host the Open, but we believe that it’s a very good return for our community."

Oakville town council will be considering ClubLink’s application to redevelop the golf course on Sept. 26.