Council votes against sale of John Blumberg golf course, in favor of repeal of escort and body rub licenses


The John Blumberg Golf Course will remain the property of the City of Winnipeg, much to the mayor’s dismay.

On Thursday, Winnipeg City Council voted 13 to 3 against selling the land declared surplus since 2013.

Mayor Brian Bowman told reporters ahead of the vote that he was in favor of the sale, but he did not expect it to be approved, based on recent committee votes.

Bowman said part of the reason he was backing the sale was to stay consistent with the message previous town councils had been sending for nearly 10 years – that the land needed to be sold.

“But in fairness to my colleagues, with whom I may disagree on this particular vote, it has always been open and transparent that the board ultimately decides,” Bowman said.

In 2013, the city explored the possibility of selling a total of 13 city-owned yards, but the council only approved Blumberg’s eventual divestiture.

The plan to sell the property to Headingley for $13.7million appeared to be moving forward, until a committee meeting earlier this month.

During council discussion Thursday, several councilors said concerns about Winnipeg’s lack of green space factored into their decision.

Property and Development Committee chair Cindy Gilroy said she “couldn’t understand” the sale of potential green space. (Travis Goldby Radio Canada)

Com. Janice Lukes (Waverley West) said the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many to reevaluate the value of green spaces, while Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital), who initially backed the sale, said he had changed his mind about preserving the green space Winnipeg still has.

Com. Cindy Gilroy, who chairs the property committee, agreed.

“I really couldn’t fathom in my mind the sale of potential green space, be it a golf course or anything else, at the moment as we try to increase the green space we have,” said Gilroy, who voted against the sale at a property committee meeting earlier this month.

Schinkel Properties, the company that won the city’s tender to purchase the property, argued during delegations that the golf course is not public green space and that their plan included 34 acres (approximately 14 hectares) of usable space with a public walking path.

“We’re not talking about selling a park. We’re selling a golf course,” said Alan Klippenstein, director of real estate development at Schinkel Properties.

“We should also note that alongside that is 70 acres of green space. That’s the ball diamonds, that’s the park. That’s not part of this sale.”

Schinkel Properties chairman Bob Schinkel, left, and Alan Klippenstein, director of real estate development for the company, reported to city council on Thursday. (Sam Samson/CBC)

Bowman agreed, saying the money from the sale could have been used to help protect Winnipeg’s tree canopy.

When asked how he thought the council’s decision to halt the proposed sale would impact his town’s ability to do business, Bowman said he respected the council’s wishes, expressed through “a good process”.

“As far as I’m concerned, I want to be consistent for those who would review these tenders and be able to rely on them,” Bowman said.

“But it’s clearly recognized in the process that ultimately the board has that decision, and I have to recognize that, and I respect that the board will ultimately have a say in it.”

The sale of the property required the approval of two-thirds of the council, but only the couns. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) and Scott Gillingham (St. James) sided with Mayor Bowman to sell the land.

Vote to repeal commercial licenses intended for adults

The council also voted on Thursday to repeal licenses for businesses aimed at adults.

Last week, a motion was presented to the Policy Executive Committee recommending that the city revoke the licenses of businesses such as escort agencies and body rub practitioners.

Fourteen of the 16 council members voted in favor of the motion.

Com. Ross Eadie (Mynarski) and Shawn Nason (Transcona) were absent at the time of the vote.


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