Major redevelopment on former golf driving range site?
A major North Burnaby property with prime views of Burrard Inlet could soon be the site of a residential development following a long waiting game played by its new owner, Wall Financial Corporation.
In June 2011, Wall Financial closed on the $6.03-million purchase of the 10-acre, narrow strip of land formerly used as a golf driving range at 6555 Hastings St., according to company financial statements.
But according to court judgments in a dispute between Wall and the property's former owner, oil giant Shell Canada Ltd., the purchase was a long time coming, having its origins back in 2000.
Shell owns the Shellburn lands, comprised of over 200 acres. In 1994, it leased 10 acres of that, referred to as Lot 1, to Hastings Golf Centre Ltd., which developed the driving range on Hastings just off Kensington Avenue.
The lease agreement included an option to purchase, but Shell stipulated that use of the property was limited to a golf centre even if that option was exercised, so as not to interfere with any of the company's oil refinery and distribution centre operations on the rest of the Shellburn lands.
By 2000, Hastings Golf Centre was $145,000 behind in rent and taxes.
Enter Wall Financial, developer of major projects including the Wall Centre complex and Capitol Residences in downtown Vancouver.
A numbered company, a Wall subsidiary, negotiated a modification and transfer of the lease which included a provision that the numbered company could require Shell to remove the restrictions on use of the property if a substantial payment was made.
"Shell was aware that [numbered company] 588526 was contemplating residential development on Lot 1," said B.C. Supreme Court Justice Brenda Brown in a 2010 judgment.
The numbered company paid $4.5 million to Hastings Golf Centre for the lease assignment and paid Shell the outstanding rent and taxes. It then continued to operate the site as a golf centre until last year.
When the numbered company exercised the purchase option in the lease, Shell responded that it preferred that the site not be used for residential, then attempted to put up road blocks in the form of a restrictive covenant, among other measures.
After describing the restrictions on use in the original lease, Brown said in her judgment, "However, if Shell did agree to permit a change of use, the use restriction, maintenance obligation, and equitable charge would all be discharged. In the assignment with the Numbered Company in 2000, Shell agreed to permit a change in use."
Wall Financial came out on the winning end in that court case, as well as Shell's appeal in June 2011.
As for Burnaby city hall's perspective on the property, city planning director Basil Luksun said in an email that the site, together with the adjacent Shell lands, have been identified in the city's Official Community Plan "for potential residential development assuming the contaminated site regulations can be met."
The site's current zoning only allows it to be used for the golf driving range.
"The City has had periodic discussions with developers regarding the redevelopment potential of the golf driving range together with the adjacent Shell property," Luksun said.
"Any new development would require a new community plan, extensive review and public consultation, and council consideration. To date, no specific development proposal has been advanced."
Wall Financial Corp. president Bruno Wall did not respond to a request for an interview.