A provincial plan to redevelop the Trans-Canada Highway has left Deer Ridge Golf Course in limbo for more than a decade, according to owner Chris Kading.
Kading said he is still waiting to negotiate a settlement with the province that was first discussed in 2002, when the Functional Design Study of P.T.H. 1 West was approved.
"My main reason for wanting an early settlement is I want to do exactly what the department of highways is doing. I want to plan for the future," Kading said. "I want to be able to purchase some more land from my neighbours, redevelop all those holes and I want to be able to do that before (the province) starts construction."
The long-term plan for the Trans-Canada Highway includes interchanges at both 18th and First streets, turning the highway into an expressway.
The plan includes building a road directly through the golf course, which would continue west from the new North Service Road and connect to a new 18th Street interchange. In addition, the plan includes a north-south road on the western side of Kading’s property. This development would take out roughly six of the nine holes.
Kading was a member of the committee of business owners in the area that helped determine the best alignment of the new road more than a decade ago.
"Right away I realized that, wow this is going to be very detrimental to my business if this is where the road is going," he said.
But because he was told that he would be compensated for the property, Kading believed he would be able to redevelop his course in a timely fashion.
Don McKibbon, the former director of regional operations with Manitoba highways, sent a letter to Kading in September 2002 which stated Kading had listed "several valid reasons to start the process" in a letter to the department, "and will be accepted as Mr. Kading’s formal request" to begin negotiations for property acquisition.
In October 2002, the department came out to survey his property — but unfortunately for Kading, that’s where the process stalled.
"They surveyed the property, they knew exactly how much land they needed, then we were to get together with Land Management Services," he said.
"I didn’t hear anything back."
Over the next few years, Kading tried to contact representatives with Land Management Services to get together to begin the negotiation process.
He enlisted the help of a lawyer to try to speed up the process. He contacted politicians. Finally a meeting was held in 2003 which turned out to be a "total waste of time," according to Kading.
"Even if they don’t have money in the budget and they may not … for a couple years, at least if we start this process and I know how I’m going to be compensated for the land … at least I can take that information to the bank and I can borrow off of that information and start re-planning," he said.
"Rather than continually lying to me and not meeting their obligations, why don’t they become straight shooters and do what they said they were going to do?"
On several occasions, Kading hired individuals to act as a liaison, including former Brandon mayor and current RM of Cornwallis Reeve Reg Atkinson, to no avail.
In 2004, Kading launched a petition to "Help Save Deer Ridge" which garnered 280 signatures over roughly a one-month period.
The province’s plan has also affected potential development on the course. About six years ago, Kading was planning to build a cart storage shed on his property, and enlisted an engineering company to draw up the plan. It was ultimately rejected by the province.
Kading was previously a CPGA golf professional before buying Deer Ridge Golf Course in 1993. His dream right from the beginning was to eventually turn the nine-hole course into a full 18-hole course.
"If this plan had never come to light, I believe without a doubt we would have either been 18 holes or we would have had a full, developed campground, or we would have had a full developed mobile home park," he said.
In 2000, Kading was starting to plan out nine new holes, working with golf course architects and spending many hours on the project, only for it to be halted.
"I’ve got my whole life invested in this facility. I’ve got every nickel I own invested in this facility and for 10 years I’ve been totally in limbo, been up in the air," he said.
Kading kept records of every meeting, letter, requests, lawyer correspondence, etc. and compiled it into a package for the minister of transportation in 2005.
"I called probably 10 times to have a phone conversation and see if I could get some closure on this," he said. "The minister of transportation, Ron Lemieux at the time, not even a phone call ... never had any communication back to me."
Kading’s biggest concern is that he will be forced out of business if he doesn’t have time to redevelop.
"There would be a lot of citizens that would be negatively affected if we were forced out of business," he said. "All I want to do is keep operating and I want to try and prevent that from happening, and if they keep stalling this process and then they get their money in the budget and their timeline changes, and they start sooner rather than later, then … we’re going to be forced right out."
Deer Ridge Golf Course has been in operation since 1986. Kading is currently in his 21st year at the helm of the operation, a point at which he says he has finally got the business to where it’s profitable and operating "pretty much on its own."
He has no plans to close the course. In fact, he wants to ensure the business stays viable for many years to come.
Kading said dealing with this issue over the past 11 years has been stressful, to say the least.
"Not to mention just how it’s negatively affected my business, not to mention how much time I’ve spent just pining over this, and having mild anxiety attacks periodically, but I’ve spent at least a thousand hours on this from 2002 to today, a thousand hours of my time, prepping and going through this and trying to get them meet their commitments," he said.
Kading also has to contend with Brandon’s rumour mill, which he says grows a little bit every year.
"This year especially, now that they’ve got that (North Service Road) built ... 500 times already this year I’ve heard from people, ‘so this is it, eh?’" he said.