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Letter: Economic development and golf in Hinton

"Yet another controversy has arisen over modifications to the Hinton golf course. This time it’s whether the existing proposal for a hotel on the golf course benefits the course, the Town of Hinton (TOH), both or neither."
letter-to-the-editor

Dear Editor:

Yet another controversy has arisen over modifications to the Hinton golf course. This time it’s whether the existing proposal for a hotel on the golf course benefits the course, the Town of Hinton (TOH), both or neither. And people seem to be divided partly on which is more important.

Clearly the purpose of the original proposal in the Expression of Interest was to enhance and promote golf, and also economic opportunities, thereby raising the profile of the TOH for businesses and families. Equally clear was the intent of the last council to eliminate the on-going taxpayer subsidy of about $156,000 per year for golf, using tax revenue from the new development, a subsidy that would eventually cost taxpayers over $1.5 million by the time all the loans were paid off. And as I pointed out in an earlier letter, cutting costs is especially important since the TOH is on the hook in the near future for an $80 million water treatment plant, plus $10 million towards our share of a waste treatment plant and towards the increasing costs of aging water and sewer infrastructure.

To some folks and councillors, the words “enhance and promote golf” means that the proposal is only good for the TOH if the physical attributes of the course are maintained or enhanced immediately. Any additional walking on the course, or a reduction in the length of the back nine holes as small as 3%, represents an unacceptable impact – as would even temporary elimination of the 19th hole (the “wedding hole”). Others of us think some degree of compromise is in order on this point.

Remember that the taxpayer has been subsidizing golf in Hinton for about 5 years and in that time the Hinton Golf Society has not presented a single proposal to council to eliminate this subsidy – as far as I am aware, including the pursuit of grants from external sources that one would normally expect in such a situation.

Some of us also think that any negative impacts on the course would be mitigated by a 5-star hotel and its training facility on the course, which would surely attract more golfers and increase revenue to be used to reduce or elminate the subsidy and perhaps invest in course improvements to offset some of the undesirable changes. And indeed the current council has approved a motion that directs funds both from the increased revenue from the proposal and from the sale of the land to the proponent towards a fund to make capital improvements to the course over time.

Feelings run high and we all wish we were in a less restricted financial position. I believe with good will and courtesy we can find a solution that works for everyone. So if you have an opinion on this important topic please talk to your town councillor.

Stuart Taylor, Member of Hinton Council