Depending on where you tee it up from, the fourth hole at the Overlander Golf and Events Centre in Armstrong (formerly the Royal York Golf Course) brings water into play, a little bit of a dogleg left to the par-4 green and some sand guarding the putting surface.
Also coming into play, albeit out of bounds, depending on where you hit the ball, is Dave and Patti Ferguson’s back yard on Okanagan Street where, over their many years of living beside the Armstrong golf course, they’ve collected many Titleist, Maxfli, Callaway and Taylor Made golf balls that have struck their home, broken their windows and ended up resting peacefully in their grass.
The Fergusons, who will give Overlander pro Jesse Crowe buckets of found balls for his successful junior program at the course, will not be sad to see the fourth hole go. And, on Monday, Sept. 27, after a 65-minute public hearing, the reconfiguration of the nine-hole golf course moved a step closer.
Council passed third reading of a redesignation bylaw proposal from local developer Patrick Place for the old Royal York course property, still owned by the York family, that would allow for 141 single-family dwellings to be built and the golf course reconfigured to a smaller track with a new putting green to be installed.
“While Dave and I are not jumping up and down for joy that the golf course is getting smaller, we are happy to lose the fourth hole for a neighbour,” said Ferguson. “We trust that our council will ensure that if they are allowing 141 homes to be built that they will be able to access good, safe Armstrong drinking water and they will have good drainage…”
In one of the largest Zoom attended Armstrong council meetings of the pandemic, eight people joined developer Place, Todd York representing the family, engineer Mike Nolan and Crowe in speaking to the proposed development.
“We are offering a choice of diverse housing options that will be available in a wide variety of size and price ranges,” said Place. “We are dedicating 2.5 acres of publicly accessible, first-class parkland.”
Crowe told council and the viewing gallery that his junior program has grown to 55 golfers after introducing students at all four of Armstrong’s schools to golf after school during the 2020-21 school years, and hopes to have 100 playing on a reconfigured smaller course.
“What we are planning to do at Overlander is spectacular for the growth of golf,” said Crowe. “To continue to promote junior golf and youth activity in town. The proposed putting course on-site will be awesome for non-golfers and golfers alike.”
The loss of the original course in the proposal has drawn a lot of criticism from the likes of the Armstrong Green Space Society and other golfers. However, Erwin (Red) Leibel, a member of Royal York since he moved to Armstrong in 1994, isn’t one of them. He happily supports the application.
“It is my opinion the proposed development plans make the property financially viable and, additionally, will provide a first-class golf venue as well as related green space amenities,” said Leibel. “The proposal strikes a good, workable balance. The project will be a net benefit to the city.”
Del Honeybourne suggested that Place carry on as owner of the golf course and drop the plan for the housing development.
“The small par-3 golf course will not amount to anything near what exists now,” said Honeybourne. “You will not have near the players you have now. The present nine-hole course is fantastic and credit should be given to Bruce York and his family for planning it and running it for many years.”
Okanagan Street resident Eli Silver spoke against the development for many reasons, including additional traffic, the placement of the proposed parks in the plan and parking.
“I’m just disappointed in the way this has been communicated and is being handled,” he said. “For something of this magnitude, I do not feel I’ve had time to possibly look at this in five business days to digest this and get input. I don’t feel I’ve been given adequate time and documentation from the city, and I’m disappointed in my councillors for moving it this far.”
Council voted 6-1 to move ahead with third reading on the proposed bylaw changes that would see the official community land use designation of the property move from multiple-unit residential (low density) to park, change the land use designation of 10 hectares of the property from commercial recreation to single/two-unit residential, and change a one-hectare portion from commercial recreation to park.
Jim Wright, as he has done since the proposal first came before council nearly two years ago, was the lone opponent. Coun. Shirley Fowler said she heard no new comments from the public in the hearing and voted in favour. Coun. Gary Froats called it the toughest decision he’s been involved with in his time on council, and Coun. Linda Fisher changed her vote after listening to the support shown by the public for the plan.
Calls by Wright and other public members for a referendum on the plan for just before the municipal elections of 2o22 were dashed when Coun. Paul Britton pointed out and had confirmed by chief administrative officer Dawn Low that the topic does not fit the referendum.