If Sechelt Golf & Country Club Ltd. (SG&CC) meets a handful of conditions by Sept. 15, it will resume operations of the Sechelt golf course, which was taken over by the District in January of this year.
On July 24, Justice Patrice Abrioux granted SG&CC relief from forfeiture on conditions that included getting out of a commitment with CC Real Estate Mortgage and paying $125,000 into an interest-bearing account to be released at the order of the court or the consent of both parties.
“We’re disappointed with the decision in the sense that we felt the best course of action for the community was for us to continue to operate it and to move forward with our RFP [request for proposals],” said Sechelt Mayor John Henderson during a Wednesday press conference for local media.
“Having said that, again the judge has directed that SG&CC be given what amounts to another opportunity to demonstrate that they have the financial capability to operate the facilities going forward.”
Henderson noted getting out of the mortgage agreement could be difficult for SG&CC.
“Of course it’s a stumbling block, but we feel that we can get out of that reasonably well in a short period of time,” SG&CC controlling shareholder Brian Hall told Coast Reporter Wednesday, noting it would be taken care of “well before” the Sept. 15 deadline.
Hall seemed content with the ruling by Abrioux this week.
“It vindicates what we felt all the way along and have been saying all the way along since 2009, and that’s that we did not owe that rent they were claiming,” Hall said. “[The judge] said the District rent that was claimed was wrong and he agreed with our interpretation of the Crown land.”
SG&CC advanced the lawsuit against the District in February after Sechelt terminated SG&CC’s leases for the golf course, saying the company owed a total of $191,332 in unpaid lease fees.
SG&CC maintained much less was owed due to a 2003 move by Sechelt council that excluded food and beverage sales, golf cart rentals, golf club rentals, golf lessons and pro-shop sales from the calculation of gross revenue for the golf course. The District had no formal record of that council resolution.
Abrioux sided with SG&CC this week, saying in his ruling that there was significant evidence to prove that “the exclusions resolution was in fact passed at a council meeting in June 2003,” due to multiple personal accounts of the motion.
While the July 24 decision may signal the end of Sechelt’s control of the golf course, it looks like SG&CC may have to pay for some of the District’s costs during the months it operated it.
In June, a judge ruled the District was lawful in their takeover of the course, making a payout in their favour probable.
Henderson said the District is currently working to determine what it actually cost them to run the course and what SG&CC might be on the hook to pay.
“So those are costs that the court has indicated are to be paid to us, and it’ll be everything from buying fuel for the lawnmowers to the costs of our lawyers for the operating part of the business,” he said. “We’ll be working on that with the registrar in the next few weeks in the hopes that we can resolve, or come to a conclusion really, on the amounts that are to be paid by SG&CC to us.”
Estimates for the Dis-trict’s lawyer bills to date total around $200,000 with Henderson saying the cost to run the course was “considerably more than that.”
Hall conceded SG&CC will likely have to pay some of those expenses.
“It appears that way,” he noted.
A date to discuss the money issue has not yet been set, but Henderson believes it will happen well before the Sept. 15 deadline.
“The District will continue to manage the golf course facilities until the court’s conditions are met by SG&CC,” he noted. “Assuming those conditions are met by Sept. 15, 2012, the District will work with SG&CC to ensure a smooth transition of the golf course operations to them.”