Mixed reactions to city’s deal with pipeline company for new Ledgeview clubhouse

Mayor says agreement will improve a city asset, but critics say deal should have been put off until after NEB ruling.

Ledgeview Golf and Country Club will get a new clubhouse and restaurant if Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project is approved.

Ledgeview Golf and Country Club will get a new clubhouse and restaurant if the Trans Mountain Pipeline is approved, in a $1.3 million agreement between council and Kinder Morgan Canada.

But although Mayor Henry Braun said Monday a new clubhouse would be a vital addition for the city-owned course, the agreement drew criticism from anti-pipeline activists and Coun. Patricia Ross, who said signing an agreement at this time could foster the impression that Abbotsford – which is an intervener in the pipeline’s National Energy Board hearings – is biased on the issue.

Ross was the only councillor at Monday’s meeting who opposed the agreement. Coun. Les Barkman was absent. (Read the agreement here.)

The pipeline proposal is currently in front of the National Energy Board (NEB), which last month heard submissions from the city about its outstanding concerns regarding infrastructure costs related to the pipeline, as well as emergency preparedness given previous spills in 2005 and 2012.

The pipeline runs for nearly 30 kilometres through Abbotsford, and Kinder Morgan also operates a tank farm and pump station on Sumas Mountain. The route also cuts directly through Ledgeview, and if the project goes forward, the course will be closed for several months during construction of the line.

The course is managed by the Ledgeview Golf Society, which rents land from, and shares profits with, the City of Abbotsford. The latest contract signed last June sees the society pay the city either half of net revenue or $40,000 each year, whichever is greater.

The city and the society had planned to split the $200,000 cost of renovating the aging clubhouse in five years.

“It only makes sense the city would make sure a very valuable amenity is protected,” Braun said, adding that the clubhouse and restaurant would also accommodate other events.

Coun. Ross Siemens likened the deal to compensation for the interruption to the course, which would be expected to close between December 2017 and March 2018.

And Ledgeview Golf Society president John Hambley said a new clubhouse would be “the most transformational thing that has happened to Ledgeview in the past 30 years.”

But Ross said that after struggling with her vote, she couldn’t support the deal.

“We are participating as interveners; we still have outstanding issues and I feel that there will be a perception of bias if we accepted this before the hearings are concluded. We may have more issues before the hearings are over yet, so I believe we need to be unencumbered by an agreement such as this.”

She also criticized Kinder Morgan for its submission to the NEB, and also took issue with what she called a “rushed timeline” imposed Kinder Morgan imposed on municipalities by suggesting that there was a limited amount of money for communities.

“I don’t like to be backed into a corner like that.”

Prior to council’s decision, Lynn Perrin of the anti-pipeline PIPE UP Network asked the city to defer accepting the deal. She said the agreement should have been subject to more public consultation and that it was “not appropriate” to go through with the deal while the pipeline proposal is before the NEB and federal government.

Kinder Morgan has signed dozens of similar “community benefits agreements” with governments along the pipeline’s route in Alberta and British Columbia.

Last May, Chilliwack council turned down a similar deal, citing ongoing concerns with the pipeline project.

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