Last round for Riverside Golf Centre

Customers critical of City of Surrey expropriation, as owner hopes for reprieve.

South Surrey resident Al Renflesh

After 50 years in business in South Surrey, Riverside Golf Centre said goodbye to hundreds of customers over the weekend, with a two-day farewell event.

Although the mood was sombre among those visiting the family owned pro-shop and driving range – which is being forced out of business after the City of Surrey expropriated the 16-acre property last year – owner Ken Poirier said he hasn’t given up on reaching a compromise with the city just yet.

“We’re still looking at some options, and hoping the city will take another second look,” Poirier told Peace Arch News, pointing to concept drawings of a re-imagined golf centre he presented late last year as a last-ditch option that would allow his family’s business to stay.

“The irony of it is, now that we’re being kicked out, we’ll have a lot more time to look into things like this.”

Poirier said he was first notified a year ago of the city’s plans to take over the property “for park purposes and biodiversity conservation, passive recreation and viewing of wildlife and scenery.”  The city also plans to extend Crescent Road across King George Boulevard to connect with Winter Crescent.

After an inquiry last spring, the expropriation was completed; in June the city paid Poirier $3.25 million for the land, an amount he said was a “fraction” of what it is worth.

In November, Poirier and two dozen supporters rallied on the steps of Surrey city hall, calling on council to consider a compromise.

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said at the time council members have been instructed by legal counsel not to comment on the matter, as an appeal process is underway.

Over the weekend, hundreds of longtime customers paid Riverside a visit and were treated to food and drinks as they scoured the discounted equipment and apparel or hit a buck of golf balls at the driving range.

Gary Darling told PAN he had been coming to the driving range “every single day” and was in disbelief about what has transpired.

“It’s an absolute disappointment on the City of Surrey’s part,” Darling said. “Every club in my bag is from here – and not because of the prices, because of the customer service. Closing this place down is just outrageous.”

Another golfer, who identified himself only as B. Doucette, described the expropriation as “a complete theft.”

“This is happening all over the place,” he said. “The only way it’s going to be stopped is if people stand up and do not let them in.”

Poirier said he has been greeted with disbelief and confusion from customers since he went public last year with the expropriation, and he is still not satisfied with the city’s explanation that they plan to turn the land into a park.

“Why would they take away a piece of land that is so highly used by the community to replace it with something that won’t benefit the people?” he asked.

As he moves his remaining inventory to his Vancouver shop, Poirier urges supporters to contact Surrey council and ask them to reconsider the matter. Though he was given till the end of the month to vacate the property, he said it’s not too late for alternate plans to keep the golf centre on the 3600 King George Blvd. property.

“If we can get everyone to keep putting on the pressure, maybe council will look at undoing what they’ve done,” he said.

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