Byelection missed chance to discuss future of Borden-Carleton fabrication yard, says developer

Kris Taylor says he is trying to make his proposal as attractive as he can. (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)
Kris Taylor says he is trying to make his proposal as attractive as he can. (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)

A man who wants to build a golf course on the site of the Confederation Bridge fabrication yard is disappointed that options for the property haven't played a larger role in the current provincial byelection campaign in Borden-Carleton.

The fabrication yard, now owned by Innovation P.E.I., has lain dormant since the bridge to New Brunswick was completed in 1997. Back in September, Kris Taylor floated the idea of developing a golf course on the property, to be called Abegweit Links.

It's not an official proposal because Innovation P.E.I. has not yet published a request for proposals for the property.

"I thought it would be out by now and it would be maybe something we could talk about during this byelection, but it's not been made public yet," said Taylor.

"If there's other proposals, you know, it would just be nice for them to come forward as soon as possible. It could have been debated during this [campaign] and then the residents of the area would have been able to give the candidates an idea of what they want in there."

There have been previous calls to clean up the construction of the Confederation Bridge in the 1990s
There have been previous calls to clean up the construction of the Confederation Bridge in the 1990s

The fabrication yard where the giant concrete components of the Confederation Bridge were crafted has been empty for more than a quarter of a century. (Shane Hennesey/CBC)

Taylor said he has not had any communication with Innovation P.E.I. or the Town of Borden-Carleton about his pitch. He does not know whether they are working on other ideas for the property.

Trying to be patient

On Thursday, Borden-Carleton chief administrative officer Jim Wentzell said the town is still consulting with the province about the site, adding that council is hoping to have plans finalized soon.

"The decision on when and how it proceeds is up to the owner of the property, which is the province," he said. "We would like to see it move quickly, but it's a process. When you're dealing with multiple groups … it takes time.

"We're trying to be patient, but like everyone else, we would like to see something happen as soon as possible."

Restrictions are in place for some vehicles on the Confederation Bridge Saturday morning.
Restrictions are in place for some vehicles on the Confederation Bridge Saturday morning.

Taylor's proposed course would give golfers a unique view of the nearby Confederation Bridge. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

In an email to CBC News, Innovation P.E.I. said it is continuing its discussions with the town on the property.

"The province met with the town on Jan. 17 to review zoning to determine what will be permitted," the email said.

"We remain committed to this project and are working closely with the town to ensure the property is developed together to meet the needs of residents in the area."

More discussion needed, say 2 candidates

CBC News spoke to three of the four candidates running in the district about Taylor's plans. Only Liberal Gordon Sobey came out strongly in favour.

Liberal candidate Gordon Sobey thinks a golf course is a good fit for Borden-Carleton. (CBC)

"I'm excited for it. The residents around the area are excited for it," said Sobey. "With so much cement under the ground, it makes more sense to build on top of it."

He described Borden-Carleton as a great location for a course, because it can catch golfers both as they arrive on P.E.I. and when they are leaving via the Confederation Bridge.

There needs to be more public input into any decision about the fabrication yard's future, says Green candidate Matt MacFarlane. (CBC)

Green candidate Matt MacFarlane isn't opposed to a golf course, but he said plans for the property need more public discussion.

"There seems to be a bit of a consensus that the golf course idea is not a terrible idea," said MacFarlane.

"Unfortunately, what we haven't seen is a community consultation to get a full, broad sense of what the community wants. I mean, this is an important piece of land for the community, and I'd like to see all of the members of the community have a say."

Progressive Conservative candidate Carmen Reeves wants to hear all the ideas before making up his mind. (CBC)

Progressive Conservative candidate Carmen Reeves said it is difficult to get behind a golf course without knowing what else is on the table.

The most important thing is to see what comes in after the request for proposals is issued, said Reeves.

"I'm a golfer. I enjoy golf. But I can't say that the best idea for the fabrication yard today is a golf course because I don't know what else has been offered."

'We have enough golf courses'

The former MLA for Borden-Kinkora is opposed to a golf course on the site.

"I've expressed that before. We have enough golf courses on P.E.I. [and] we need year-round jobs," said Jamie Fox, who vacated the District 19 seat because he intends to run for the Conservatives in the next federal election.

He said that when he was still in government, the province received several other proposals that could add jobs and strengthen the economy.

MLA Jamie Fox
MLA Jamie Fox

Former Borden-Kinkora MLA Jamie Fox, shown in a file photo, says a golf course is not a good fit for the location. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

"Borden-Carleton could be the site of small container ships coming in, unloading and then being at the Moncton rail hub within about two hours. I think it needs to be a mix of light commercial, light industrial, which would provide benefits to the area and the province for jobs and economic value."

Housing added

When Taylor came forward with his idea in September, he said he believed it was coming down to the final hours for making proposals.

Now it's February, with no request for proposals issued. He doesn't have standing to talk to Innovation P.E.I., and because he doesn't own the land, he can't talk to the town. He said he has been doing what he can to make the proposal more attractive.

"We added some housing to our project because we knew that became an issue with the town, and we want to bring to the town what the town wants," he said.

Ideally, Taylor said, he would like to start creating the golf course this spring. He expects the work would take about two years.