Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Golf course aims for parity

by Jennifer Smith, Morning Star Staff.
The Morning Star, Wednesday, May 27/09

Highlands Golf course is one swing closer to being on par with other area courses.

The Coldstream course is hoping to gain a liquor primary licence, which would allow golfers to take their beverages out on the course.

All other area golf courses currently have the proper licence to allow customers to enjoy a drink on the greens. But at Highlands, without such a licence, many golfers smuggle alcohol onto the course.

"All this is, is finally, after seven-and-a-half years, I get parity with other golf courses," said owner Barb Mitchell.

The District of Coldstream has forwarded the liquor licence application to the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch -- which will make a decision on whether or not to permit the licence.

Initially Coldstream had laid out a list of comments to go with the application, but now council is keeping its mouth shut and leaving the decision up to the LCLB.

"There's no doubt it should be sent off, but I don't think it should be weighted one way or another," said Coun. Pat Cochrane.

But Coldstream is sending in all staff reports and public correspondence -- including 29 letters of support for the application and six against, as well as a petition opposed to the application signed by 92 residents.

"Here is all the information and do with it as you will," said Coun. Bill Firman, who was opposed to forwarding the application, along with councillors Gyula Kiss and Richard Enns.

Enns and Kiss raised some issues with the zoning of the site, which determines the hours of operation. It allows the business to operate until two hours after sunset.

Mitchell says that has and always will be the case, adding that the course is closed at dark and during the winter.

"Everything will be closed and shut down, doors locked, two hours after sunset. I promise."
But it's not the current operator that concerns some councillors.

It's the subsequent operator I'm concerned about," said Enns, who would like to see the zoning changed to ensure year-round operations aren't permitted.

"A subsequent operator??? "I'm worried about a meteorite," sniffs Kia.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hold the Presses...

I've discovered that Council will indeed forward the LP Application to Victoria
"Without Comment"

You're likely wondering "Gee, were you really present at that meeting?"

I'm beginning to wonder that myself.

It was so confusing, with motions and amendments and discussions and votes.

After 5 months of this gut-wrenching process, seems my sanity is down a pint.

"No Comment," chuckles Kia.

Council condones alcohol smuggling...

In an odd display of musical Black Hats/White Hats, Coldstream Council last night voted against the LP licence application by Highlands Golf to allow liquor sales onto the golf course, versus the present Clubhouse and Patio licence. Councillors previously FOR the licence are now AGAINST and, conversely, one or two AGAINST seemed to have swung. They could have amended the staff recommendation for full support, they could have decided to send the application off to Victoria without making a comment, they could have accepted the staff recommendation...lots of choices. Councillor Cochrane's comment, "We're not representing our constituents (on the petition) if we allow this," was a 180-degree turn. He appeared not to care that the petition was a travesty. Sigh. So let's review the petition: the ANTI group attended 57 homes in the surrounding area and said at each door that "Highlands Golf will become a year-round pub." Council's memory appears short, as they've forgotten last month's meeting where Jeff Mellows--presumably one of two who started the petition--squirmed and back-pedalled while he was at the microphone. "You mean it won't be open year-round?" Staff reply: "no, the facility is governed by zoning to be open only during the Okanagan golf season." "You mean it will close two hours after sunset?" Staff reply: "yes, the facility's hours aren't superseded by liquor licence hours." All of which was followed by considerable "" from Mr. Mellows. More squirming...and throat-clearing, concluding with "oh, thank you," as he backed away from the podium. The next day I wrote an email to the neighbour Schwartz--presumably the other petition originator--asking them to revisit those 57 homes and ask the correct question. No reply. No "corrected" petition. Now to a particularly distasteful part of recent history...the comments of Schwartz the neighbour. Or, more correctly, the comments made by James Cotter, the Schwartz solicitor, during the February 23rd public hearing, where he stood at the microphone and said "people exposing themselves to the children, urinating at the fenceline." Repeated in Mr. Cotter's written submission in the agenda. Yet--on March 15th--Sheila Schwartz wrote in an email to me: "I do not see anywhere in the correspondence to Coldstream council where we have stated that men are purposefully exposing themselves to our chiildren(sic) in a criminal manner." And Todd Schwartz' comment to me during a brief telephone conversation, "It's just a couple of goons, a couple of young guys." I logged the conversation on my computer, and sent it as a "clarification" to council. Shortly after, his wife denied he had said that. And on it went: "We have never burned illegally," begins an email from Schwartzes on May 2, 2009, "yet you keep saying that we do." a communique from the Schwartz household stated. (The smoke-on-the-patio photo, taken April 27/08 around dusk, was sent to the Bylaw Officer for his records). A stroke of luck -- a firefighter was here that night, appalled at what was occurring. He took a photo of the smoke too. "Wait longer yet," suggests Kia, "and the story will change again." How many versions are there? So the Liquor Inspector's recommendation for the LP licence was ignored by Council. Now what? I don't know of any pub that has a golf course. Do you? Unauthorized liquor is everywhere...even at Coldstream Park, behind Coldstream Elementary School. Right in Council's own back yard. Council condones liquor smuggling into Coldstream Park. Council had a chance to virtually end liquor smuggling at Highlands Golf. They ignored that opportunity. Is Council concerned about the sheer volume of liquor consumed at Coldstream Park? Are they keen to check people's picnic baskets and remove illicit alcohol from the myriad family reunions for which the park's BBQ area is rented each year? Nah... It's not an airport. Search and seizure is frowned upon at a park. And at a golf course," affirms Kia.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Report to Mayor & Council for their decision/resolution

Agenda for May 25th includes the following report from the Chief Administrative Officer of District of Coldstream "Recommendation: THAT the report from the Director of Development Services, dated May 15, 2009, regarding Barbara Mitchell (Highlands Golf) Application for a Liquor-Primary Licence at 7961 Buchanan Road, be received; AND THAT the following correspondence be forwarded to the General Manager, Liquor Control and Licensing Branch regarding the application for a liquor-primary licence at 7961 Buchanan Road: 'At the Regular Meeting of Council held on May 25, 2009, the District of Coldstream Council passed the following resolution with respect to the application for the above named liquor licence: THAT the District of Coldstream Council recommends the issuance of the licence for the following reasons: the impact is expected to be nominal. The nominal impact is based on the following considerations: the existing facility is currently licenced to serve alcohol; the licence change may result in better control of unauthorized alcohol consumption; the person capacity is not proposed to be increased; and, the hourse of operation are controlled by zoning (i.e. closed by 2 hours after sunset). AND THAT the District of Coldstream Council's comments on the prescribed considerations are as follows: (a) the location of the establishment is in a rural and agricultural area and suitably zoned for a golf course and club house; (b) the proximity of the establishment to other social or recreational facilities and public buildings are not close by and, as such, not a concern; (c) the person capacity and hours of liquor service of the establishment are to remain unchanged and the hours restricted by the C.5 Zoning to 2 hours after sunset; (d) the number and market focus or clientele of liquor primary licence establishments within a reasonable distance of the proposed location is not a concern as the closest licenced facility is 5.4 km away; (e) traffic, noise, parking and zoning are not of concern as the change in licence will not affect the existing conditions; (f) population, population density and population trends are not a concern as the change in licence will not affect the existing conditions and the immediate area is not expected to grow significantly in the foreseeable future; (g) relevant socio-economic information are not of concern as the change in licence will not affect the existing conditions; (h) the impact on the community if the application is approved is expected to be nominal. The nominal impact is based on the following considerations: the existing facility is currently licenced to serve alcohol; the licence change may result in better control of unauthorized alcohol consumption; the person capacity is not proposed to be increased; and, the hours of operation are controlled by zoning (i.e. closed by 2 hours after sunset). AND THAT the District of Coldstream Council endorses the comments provided in the report from the Director of Development Services, dated May 15, 2009, regarding Barbara Mitchell's (Highlands Golf's) application for a Liquor-Primary Licence; AND FURTHER THAT the District of Coldstream Council's comments on the views of residents are as follows: the input received from residents ranges widely. Many written submissions were received in support of the licence change and a petition opposing the change was received. The main topics of concern are: increased drinking and driving; general traffic safety; increased noise around the clubhouse and on the course; impact on hours of operations; possibility of this leading to other licences or type of operation (i.e. Pub); and, impact on police costs and demands. A Public Input Session was held on May 11, 2009 to collect views of the residents. The Session was advertised in the local paper and notice was mailed to residents within 3 kilometers, fronting Buchanan Road'." "Arf, Arf!" intones Kia, adding "How d'ya spell 'Hallelujah'? 'Hallelewya'? 'Hallelooya'? Never mind the spelling... Glad to see--after FOUR months--that there ARE people who can comprehend complicated issues. Now it's up to Council on May 25th. Oh...and there was an earthquake FELT near Revelstoke today...relax, everybody, it was just Kia jumping up and down!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Course owner denies pub talk

The Morning Star, Friday, May 15, 2009 Jennifer Smith, reporter The owner of Coldstream's own short-game excellence course is teed off by misinformation being spread about the golf course. Barb Mitchell says Highlands Golf Course is not applying to be a year-round pub and will not be increasing capacity at the clubhouse. Instead, the course owner has applied for a liquor primary licence with the intention of allowing beverage-consuming customers to take their drinks out on the course. By permitting this, Mitchell hopes to eliminate alcohol being smuggled onto the course. "It gives me the same licence Hillview and all other courses have and it's not a pub that they have," said Mitchell. A public meeting on the issue Monday saw a mix of support and opposition to the application. Many letters were received in support of Highlands' application, while a petition against the application garnered close to 100 signatures. "I ask council to consider all Buchanan Road users (pedestrians, cyclists, motorists) who will face higher safety risks from drivers under the influence," said Sheila Schwartz, who was the first to sign the petition. Yet residents like Cora Smith feel the application will create a safer, better controlled situation on the course. "Do you want it (drinking) to continue being illegal and discreet?" Smith asked council, saying that Highlands deserves to have the same privilege that every other course has. "I can walk around at Hillview, have a beer and golf and why not do that at Highlands?" she said, admitting that she too has smuggled beer out on the course because it was not available. Coun. Richard Enns suggested allowing liquor on the course might put safety in jeopardy, and questioned whether it should be permitted since there are children on the course. Smith said it is no different than the many other courses where children are allowed, as is drinking by adults. Coldstream council is expected to make a recommendation to the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch on whether or not Highlands should receive the licence. "The licence, if it does come, probably won't be until next year," said Mitchell, adding that if the licence is approved the clubhouse will not be expanded and will remain at 49 seats inside and 80 on the patio. "Plus I'm still legislated by Coldstream to be golf season only and council previously rolled back my hours to two hours after sunset." "Ain't this process fun?", grins Kia.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Liquor Primary licence Public Hearing

The world is run by those who show up... And this time, Highlands Golf supporters showed up. And spoke in favour of approving the application for the same liquor licence held by other area courses. Thanks to Dan, Al, and Cora for their insight and courage to get up in front of a microphone. And 27 others sent in thought-provoking letters of support. I'm very grateful. It wasn't all roses, though. The anti group presented a petition with approx. 92 names from 57 residences, opposed to the licence. Only one problem with their petition. They got the question incorrect. They had asked whether people were in favour of a year-round pub! Heck, I would've signed that petition myself! That wasn't what Highlands applied for. The Coldstream zoning by-law states Highlands can be open only during the golf season. And closing hours had been previously rolled back to two hours after sunset. ...Sound like a year-round pub to you? Didn't think so... Yet this petition will accompany the District's "views" to the liquor licensing branch in Victoria, B.C. for their decision. The petitioners had ample opportunity to read the entire application at the District office. What's the saying? "You can lead a horse to water..." ...but you can't ensure people comprehend what they're reading. "Should've given them an IQ test first," adds Kia.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Councillor Dirk's misleading statement in The Morning Star

So what did Coldstream Councillor Dirk say? (The Morning Star April 19/09). "The impact of this (liquor licence) is felt all the way down Buchanan Road." Abject nonsense, Councillor Dirk! Highlands Golf has had a liquor licence for 7 years. I recently asked the RCMP for a list of complaints/infractions encountered on Buchanan Road as a result of Highlands Golf operations. "In 7 years, there was one complaint, and that was for Noise," answers an official with the RCMP's Vernon office. The new licence application will allow golfers to take a beer out onto the golf course during play. It's the same liquor licence possessed by all other bona fide, professionally-built golf courses. I am disappointed Councillor Dirk appears unable to resist fear mongering. Just like the current liquor licence, the new licence means no off-sales, no capacity changes, no traffic increase, no neon signs, no clubhouse or patio renovations, no pool or shuffleboard tables, no "dancing girls", no karaoke. Perhaps this statement is indicative of the councillor's ability to comprehend difficult topics. Frankly, Councillor Dirk appears unable to separate the wheat from the chaff. Another so afflicted is the neighbour on the west, as evidenced by her comment in the same article: "This is a golf recreation facility, not a facility focused on food and liquor services." Huh?!? So now we're not to serve food or beer? asks Kia.