Badminton court causes racket at council

Saanich council postpones debate on controversial plans for Cordova Bay Community Centre

President Ron Jordan of the Cordova Bay Community Centre

President Ron Jordan of the Cordova Bay Community Centre

Saanich council decided to postpone a decision on Monday for a new Cordova Bay Community Centre at 941 Sutcliffe Rd. when the divisive issue drew more than 140 supporters and dozens of opponents into chambers.

A sea of blue shirts worn by supporters filled the chambers beyond capacity and flowed out into the hallways. Mayor Richard Atwell requested a show of hands, which revealed nearly all of the gallery was there to speak regarding 941 Sutcliffe. Once they left, only 11 people remained.

“It was an issue of too many people for the fire bylaw,” said Coun. Colin Plant.

Instead, council will reschedule a special committee of the whole at a bigger venue, possibly the multipurpose room at the Garth Homer Society Centre, which was used to host a similarly attended EDPA bylaw town hall earlier this year.

The proposal for 941 Sutcliffe Rd., a short street that ends in a cul-de-sac, was put together by the CBCC executive. It asks to rezone the land from single family dwelling to a P-4 designation, which permits recreation and open space, so they can construct a new 6,400 square-foot (595 square metre) recreation building, to hold four badminton courts. Outside they’ll bring parking up to 28 stalls plus a series of landscape improvements.

There is also a second phase that would add another four courts in place of the original building. In the meantime, the original building, which houses three courts, would stand.

The CBCC estimates a $500,000 to $600,000 cost for Phase 1, of which CBCC hopes to borrow about $400,000 from Saanich interest-free. It is the type of loan that Saanich has provided other sports clubs in recent years, particularly soccer clubs building turf fields.

However, a neighbourhood group for about 50 people have opposed the idea of a new badminton facility on Sutcliffe since it was initially floated in 2000.

Sutcliffe resident Diane Mellot is among the group that opposes the plan. The group has stated a new centre will bring added traffic to the quiet side street, and are concerned the scope of the proposal does not fit with the Cordova Bay local area plan.

“This isn’t the place for a badminton facility,” said Mellot. “Every other badminton facility in B.C. is built on a sports field or near a light industrial area, not on a residential street.”

The plan also lacks the endorsement of Saanich Planning and the local Cordova Bay Association for Community Affairs.

Despite that, Ron Jordan, a dedicated badminton player and president of the badminton-focused CBCC, says the proposal reflects the desires of a large group that’s been running and using the facility for 20 years. He also says it’s a red herring that the users are not local, while other supporters are neither members or users.

“We don’t ask everyone who comes in where they’re from… people aren’t going to come from the western communities to use our facility,” Jordan said. “People don’t want to travel long distances.”

He also said there is interest from the pickle ball community and table tennis community to use the facility.

The impetus for the new building is to replace the 66-year-old facility which once acted as a thriving community centre for Cordova Bay. For decades the facility hosted indoor soccer for the Cordova Bay Soccer Association, floor hockey, basketball, badminton, dances, event dinners, Boy Scouts and Kiwanis chapter meetings, along with other activities.

However, membership and activities slowed in the 1980s as the building became tired and dated. The club was resuscitated by badminton players who reinstated  the CBCC society in 2000 and have been running the club and facility since.

There is some talk about whether there should be an all-around community centre in place of a badminton-focused centre. That will likely be one of the discussion points when the special committee of the whole meeting takes place.