Public Park or Private Privilege?

Take Action: Email Mayor Iveson and your City Councillor today. Tell them not to renew the Mayfair golf course lease until 2069 and instead consult Edmontonians on what our shared vision is for this crown jewel of river valley land could be. (Please cc’ us: vision@friendsofourpark.com)

Residents of Edmonton have been presented with a rare and remarkable opportunity to advance the public good and the public interest by reclaiming valuable public lands which are currently being used for the narrowest of private, elite and wealthy interests. We are referring to the opportunity to take back city-owned land being leased to the Royal Mayfair Golf Club.

It was revealed in early December by Elise Stolte in the Edmonton Journal that Edmonton’s most private, most elite golf course is seeking an additional extension until 2069 to their astonishingly one-sided and lucrative lease deal. For 154 acres of prime river valley land, their lease costs are a nominal $35,000 per year plus tax—virtually a rounding error to the city budget, equivalent to the property tax of five average homes.

Edmonton will be home to two million people by 2041. Above all, we must also remember Peter Lougheed’s words in regard to Alberta’s oil and energy resources: “Think like owners.”  We as citizens collectively own this park space. Why would we continue to give it away to a wealthy few, when we can use it to create something that will benefit all of us?

Understanding the Issue

Who benefits?

Four hundred and seventy-five Royal Mayfair shareholders at a share price of $40,000 and $10,000 annual dues enjoy Edmonton’s most exclusive private club.

To be clear: we aren’t opposed to private golf courses or clubs, but believe it is fair to question whether this space and this location maximizes the enjoyment and utility of the river valley for all citizens, rich or poor, shareholder or not.

As the private shareholders of the Mayfair look ahead and seek yet another lease renewal until 2069, we must ask ourselves about who this decision benefits, what is in the best interest of the city, and whether or not a better use of this prime real estate could derive maximal utility for all, not only the wealthy few.

“Most importantly, the Royal Mayfair is a haven for its members. It is a place to relax, enjoy, and connect in the company of like-minded individuals.” (Royal Mayfair Website)

Can we expand that definition of “like-minded individuals” to include benefit to “all Edmontonians?”

Can we demand a better process?

In 2001, while Bill Smith was Mayor, a 43 lease (originally signed in 1983) was not only quietly extended an additional 25 years, but the lease terms were drastically altered to make it much more favorable to the club, including removal of a termination provision. This simply required that 4 councilors on the Transportation and Public Works Committee carry the motion.
The idea of a private lease being renewed by the administration without public approval, consultation or oversight is very concerning. Citizens must demand that our councilors debate such a long-term decision regarding public land following due process and best practices in transparency and good governance following a vote at Council.

Can we dream about a better use? Are our parks designed for the many or the few?

City Council should take this opportunity to consult the public as to the next steps, not just the few hundred Mayfair shareholders. We should at least have the conversation to weight the pros and cons and ensure we are good stewards of our precious land.

Here’s a perspective from a non-Mayfair golfer.

What is your dream for our land when the Mayfair lease expires? Is there an opportunity to terminate the lease as a part of current negotiations? Is there a better way to incorporate public access provisions for all into the Mayfair lease agreement during the golf season or during the off-season? What do you think?

We hope to learn more and will share more as this issue progresses.

More history to the Royal Mayfair lease extension

2001 city administration report to the Transportation and Public Works Committee on the proposed amendment of lease (Word document)

February 6, 2001 Transportation and Public Works Committee Minutes (Word document)

Did you know Edmonton has a River Valley Bylaw?

Media coverage of the issue

Best kept ski secret. ‘Public benefit’ not so public at Mayfair Golf Course
(Edmonton Journal, December 7, 2018)

Community group calls for open talks on Edmonton golf club lease
(CBC News, January 7, 2019)

Edmonton group calls for city to make Royal Mayfair Golf Club negotiations public
(The Star Edmonton, January 7, 2019)

New group wants City of Edmonton to reconsider Royal Mayfair Golf Club lease extension
(Global News Edmonton, January 7, 2019)

Group demanding public consultation in Royal Mayfair Golf Club lease renewal
(CTV News Edmonton, January 7, 2019)

City lease talks with ritzy Mayfair Golf Course should be transparent: River valley advocacy group
(Edmonton Journal, January 8, 2019)

What others are saying

Public Interest Alberta Media Release
(January 7, 2019)