A Cape Breton not-for-profit group has been ordered to pay $30,000 in legal fees after an injunction application to block the sale of a golf course was denied.
The Cape Breton Ski Club, which owns and operates Ski Ben Eoin, is to pay $20,000 to Ben Eoin Golf Club, which had owned and operated The Lakes Golf Course, and $10,000 to the Ben Eoin Development Group, which has purchased the golf course.
Supreme Court Justice Frank Edwards issued the ruling late Tuesday, having previously presided over three days of testimony in May as part of the application. Edwards denied the ski’s club bid to halt the sale of the golf club to the development group and allow the board of directors from the ski hill to present its own offer to purchase the 18-hole course.
The ski club directors contended they had first refusal rights to purchase golf club lands. Both facilities are adjacent to each other in Ben Eoin, located some 27 km from Sydney.
“The applicant’s (ski hill) claim is frivolous and vexatious. The claim appears to be motivated more by a belated effort to counter the development group’s offer than by confidence in the alleged first refusal,” said Edwards, in denying the injunction application.
The golf club had sought reimbursement of $64,000 in costs while the development group requested $24,000.
“The ski club is a not-for-profit entity. That fact weighs heavily upon my determination for an appropriate cost award. Had this been a dispute among commercial 'for profit' enterprises, my costs award would be much higher,” said Edwards, in his decision.
The judge also noted that the general membership of the ski club was not consulted prior to the board of directors launching the injunction application and that seven directors resigned over the decision to pursue the matter in court.
“It would not be fair to treat them in the same manner as shareholders of a commercial enterprise. To some extent, the ski club membership will have to shoulder the consequences of the actions of their legally constituted board,” said the judge.
The decision to reject the injunction application paved the way for the sale of the golf course to the development group, which is promising to create a multi-million-dollar tourism destination development in Ben Eoin.
Golf club shareholders voted in February to sell the operation to the development group in a no-cash sale with the development group assuming all liabilities and assets.
A day after the vote, the ski club served notice it had first refusal rights and wanted 60 days in which to present the golf club with an alternate proposal.
But Justice Frank Edwards was not swayed by the ski hill’s argument and very pointedly said its representatives were less than forthright in dealings with the development group and were deliberate in hiding a document from a prospective buyer.
The ski hill has been in operation for 52 years while the golf course celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
John Ling, vice president of the ski hill board, said Wednesday the group is disappointed in losing its injunction bid and was not surprised by the cost award.
“We will pay the amount and move forward,” said Ling, adding officials from the hill and the development group have been meeting to discuss how both sites can be developed in a co-operative manner.
He said hill officials are making plans for the coming season and will be making some changes when it comes to operations.
“We are certainly trying to hold our own which is somewhat difficult given that the economy is not in great shape and the weather is always a challenge,” said Ling.
With news that the former Ski Cape Smokey facility in Ingonish has been sold to European investors, Ling said the Ben Eoin group does not view the purchase as creating a competitor.
Ling said members from the Ben Eoin operation have already met with the buyers of Smokey and have begun identifying opportunities that both could share and develop.
With a membership of between 1,500-2,000, Ling said new people are now volunteering to help the Ben Eoin operation move forward.
“I am very optimistic about the future and that this facility will move forward in a positive manner,” he said.