The Background: The OMB written decision of 18 November 2014 tells us:
“There is no evidence before the Board that the Town took any steps to acquire these lands for public open space and public park purposes.”
In a nutshell: Newmarket councillors in March 2008 took a decision in principle not to buy the Glenway lands on the basis of a verbal report from the Chief Administrative Officer, Bob Shelton. We do not know what was said at that meeting or what options were considered. But the die was cast. The decision was taken in a closed session meeting that lasted 35 minutes (with three items on the agenda). Tony Van Bynen was in the chair with John Taylor and Joe Sponga present (along with former councillors Emanuel, Ramsarran and Woodhouse).
On 24 June 2015 I submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the Town of Newmarket (as did the Glenway Preservation Association) asking for sight of the Minutes and all Records relating to the possible purchase of Glenway Golf Course in the Closed Session of the Committee of the Whole 17 March 2008 and in the Closed Session Special Committee of the Whole 28 April 2008.
Read the Confidential Minutes and Reports
I received copies of these papers on 3 July 2015 along with a copy of a confidential Information Report from the Chief Administrative Officer to the Mayor and Members of the Council dated 15 February 2013. That document had been triggered by a question from a councillor asking if the Town had ever considered buying the Glenway Golf Course property. You can see all these papers by clicking on “Documents” in the panel top left, opening “Glenway” and navigating to “FOI Request on Town’s possible purchase of Glenway lands 3 July 2015”.
What the records reveal
The confidential Information Report of 15 February 2013, written five years after the events in question, says the Chief Administrative Officer (Bob Shelton) provided a verbal report in March 2008 to a closed session meeting of the Committee of the Whole on the Glenway property sale which was being conducted by way of a tender call.
The Information Report states:
“Council concurred that the municipality was not in the golf course business and the property should not be pursued.”
There is no mention of this reason in the publicly available records from 2008. The Minute of the closed session meeting on 17 March 2008 simply records that the verbal report "be received".
By the time of the report of 25 April 2008, Bob Shelton had met the owners and had learned more about their plans and preferences.
Shelton lists various key points coming out of the meeting
“The proposals are wide-ranging and from the discussions appear to range from intense residential development to the combination of development and private club activities such as a nine hole golf course, racket-ball, etc (it does not appear that a solid proposal was received for the 18 hole golf course though this was not entirely clear)”
“The owners indicated that at this point they would prefer to proceed by way of a co-operative approach with the municipality and thus would like to discuss potential options with the Town.”
“These options included the Town considering the purchase of the property and/or entering into a partnership which could be structured such that the golf course continues to function for a certain period of time while development option(s) are reviewed and pursued that would strive for a balanced plan.”
The report was “received for information purposes”.
Back to Front
It all seems back to front to me, with councillors taking a decision in principle in March 2008 not to buy before all the options had been explored.
The Minutes and Records are silent on the number and nature of any tender offers and any options that may have been put on the table by parties interested in acquiring the Glenway lands. This is the sort of thing we might have expected to see in a confidential background report – if, of course, the information were available.
Marianneville bought the Glenway lands on 21 January 2010 from Glenway Country Club (1994) Limited for $9,900,000.
When Marianneville produced its settlement offer to the Town (in the hope of avoiding an OMB Hearing) it offered the Glenway West lands to the Town on a ten year option to buy at a fixed price of $5,500,000. The Town did not accept and the Glenway issue went to the OMB. Had the Town settled on those terms, Marianneville would have won the jackpot, acquiring the developable Glenway golf course lands for a trifling $4.4 million.