Officially, it was a meeting to get people to join their newly created society.
It was also a chance to air concerns and comments about an Armstrong development that, for the time being, exists only in peoples’ minds.
An overflow crowd of nearly 200 jammed into Centennial Theatre Tuesday to listen to and ask questions of the Armstrong Green Space Society, formed by a number of residents who reside on or near the Royal York Golf Course, during a nearly 90-minute session.
The course announced to its membership in early December it had accepted a serious offer to sell the course to an Okanagan company.
Rumours began circulating that the company, N&T Properties, would be building a 200-home development on the site of what would be the former golf course, though the sale by the York family to N&T Properties is not official, nor has the City of Armstrong received any development application for the property.
Nobody from Armstrong council was at Tuesday’s meeting.
“This association came up because it’s such a large development,” said Lindsay Tkachuk, joined on stage representing the society by Don Cominetti, Ron Smeeth, Denise Seguin and evening moderator Denis Harvey.
“There was another development on swamp lands by Colonial Farms, rejected by the city because the people of Armstrong went in and argued against it. The issue here is this is not what you might want to build on two acres. This is a major development and major change to the community.
“Armstrong in its official community plan (OCP), states we want to have amenities here, services here. We do not want to be a bedroom community to Vernon. This development takes away one of the amenities and creates exactly opposite what the city has in the OCP.
The society, whose name is officially registered with the province, though the society itself is not as yet (board of directors will be elected at its next meeting), had a petition for those attending to sign stating, “We the undersigned oppose any required amendments to the OCP and rezoning to remove the green space used by the Royal York Golf Course to allow for the development of a large residential area and we ask the Armstrong city council to delay any decision on the property pending investigation of options involving retention of the property as it exists.”
Smeeth and Seguin talked about increased traffic problems and losing the golf course if the property sells. Cominetti said the issue is traumatic for him and traumatic for his neighbour — “the most hardest-working, most sincere and more generous person he’s ever met” — golf course founder Bruce York.
“This is a very, very sensitive issue,” said Cominetti. “But I feel I have a responsibility, and a responsibility for all residents to ensure local government makes decisions that are beneficial in the short- and long-term for the whole community.”
After society founders spoke, York family member Todd York was given a chance to address the crowd.
He told the audience basically what was in the letter sent to members: that the family opened the course in 1990 and had been trying to sell it for the past seven years because the golf industry continues to decline, and there was no interest in the course whatsoever; that the club suffered after fire destroyed the clubhouse in 2009, resulting in the course operating out of a trailer for two years.
And then he took aim at the society.
“A small group didn’t take the news (of the sale) well at all,” said York. “That small group developed the ‘save the greenspace’ idea. ‘Save’ and ‘green space’ in the same sentence. There couldn’t be a more motherhood statement.
“I keep hearing terms like ‘green space used by the golf course,’ and ‘valuable community green space.’ These terms suggest that somehow this is a publicly owned course and a public asset, but it isn’t. It’s my mom and dad’s back yard…
“It seems the core group may have a self-serving motive. There have been lots of subdivisions built in Armstrong in recent years. They were green. And the Green Space Society did not exist to protect any of those and why is that? Because it’s about the golf course. That’s what it’s about.”
York, a councillor for the Township of Spallumcheen for four-consecutive terms, acknowledged the many people who have sent well-wishes to the family for their support. He encouraged the crowd to join the official process when a development application is presented to council.
“You’re being drawn into being scared of something that hasn’t happened,” said York of Tuesday’s meeting. “None of the points in the Green Space page is true. it’s all supposition, all conjecture, all designed to scare the crap out of you. None of it is true. I want you to be part of the process, look at the plan when it’s presented.”
A plan may be put forward to council within the first quarter of 2019.
York had support from a number of audience members, including Patti Ferguson, who said she would ask questions of council “when there’s a bona fide application before it.”
“I’m deeply saddened by the way people are indeed turning on each other because of people saying this might happen, or that might happen,” said Ferguson. “I don’t think all of us attacking them (council) and telling what we want them to do about something that hasn’t come before them won’t be helpful in any way.
“Write council a letter telling them your personal reasons you don’t want the golf course lands to be developed. Do it. But don’t sign a petition. It’s just baloney. Speak for yourself.”