Headline writing is an interesting art. Many think the writer also suggests the headline — but in newspaper writing the headline is created by a layout editor working through the story. Which explains, I hope, the ridiculous incendiary Toronto Star headline on an otherwise balanced story about the situation of property taxes and the city’s private clubs.
The story basically gets it right — in the 1950s, a time when golf clubs were disappearing under houses in the city at a regular rate, a deal was struck to keep them as green spaces amidst urban sprawl. They were cut a break on property taxes, but would have to pay those taxes back if the land was ever sold, which is one of the reasons we haven’t seen more private clubs become houses.
Anyway, the story in the Star has come up because the clubs were negotiating with the city on a new tax deal in 2010 and then …. nothing:
“I haven’t heard anything from the city in more than a year,” said Herb Pirk, general manager of Oakdale Golf and Country Club. Oakdale is one of the few clubs that has partially opened its doors to the community.
Pirk, like others, is eager to move forward.
There is a suggestion that courses could start repaying some of the money owed — which is pegged as high as $37-million, btw. But that isn’t just Toronto courses — that includes courses across the province and some say that figure is too high. Either way, hard to see how fees wouldn’t increase at clubs if they have to pay millions in back taxes. The only issue — golf courses aren’t worth what they once were:
One option floated in the past is that the courses begin paying off the debt as a loan. And according to Joe Regina, an account manager with MPAC, the amount in question will in fact be lower for most of the owners.
“The reductions in value are the result of changes in the market conditions. In the past decade, the value of golf courses have declined significantly, largely due to increased competition and maintenance costs. Each course was reviewed and valued on their own factual circumstances, and so the resulting reductions varied from 1 per cent to 53 per cent,” he said.
Regardless, the Toronto Star’s comments on the story are crazy with people saying all private clubs — apparently played exclusively by rich old white guys — should be turned into parks. Right — the city is going to try to go to court to take over private land owned by some of the best connected, most affluent people in Toronto. Now that makes sense.