'It's inevitable:' Aurora's Magna Golf Course sold to development firm
Trillyan Investment Limited buys famous course
June 22, 2020
When residents surrounding Aurora's Highland Gate golf club found out it had been sold to a developer, they were upset.
That anger likely waned when the developer Geranium Homes and the ClubLink promised to increase the number of amenities and green space within the development.
However, 2.5 years later, much of the campaigners’ work lies is tatters, the course now acres of nothingness with just nine large homes built on the land.
Such is the world of development and real estate -- unpredictable.
Fresh off the loss of this golf course, others have been teetering.
Private members at high-end Beacon Hall, a jewel in Aurora’s golfing crown, have been looking into a potential sale.
Then in and around June 9, Magna Golf Club was sold to a Chinese-owned development firm named Trillyan Investment Limited.
The sale is expected to be finalized in November.
The real estate firm has assured staff, members and even the Aurora mayor, Tom Mrakas, it will continue to run as a golf course.
“We have no plan to close down the golf club and will continue to service the members to the highest standards,” wrote an unnamed spokesperson at the company in an email to yorkregion.com. “Our understanding of the current rules and regulations is that this area cannot be redeveloped, as it is inside the Oak Ridges Moraine.”
Little is known about Trillyan, other than the fact that it also owns Magna headquarters and the 12 acres of land underneath, that lay just north of the course.
According to a company database search of Trillyan’s ownership, it shows only two names.
An individual named Rong Wu, is listed as the president and a also a resident of Canada; while Zhaoyan Wang, a director, is not listed as a resident of Canada.
For the uninitiated, Magna is one of the most exclusive golf courses in the country, a course with an initiation fee topping $100,000, a place where the world’s top golfers have frequently roamed, Tiger Woods, Mike Weir just to name a few.
It also held an LPGA event in 2019 drawing around 40,000 people.
The 200-acre course has a membership of just over 270 and around half of the course is on the Oak Ridges Moraine.
The Oak Ridges Moraine is sensitive environmental land sometimes referred to as the rainbarrel of Southern Ontario, according to the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust, which states that it helps 200,000 access drinking water.
Although development is restricted on the Oak Ridges Moraine section, the other half is not zoned residential but could see development, although it would be subject to council review.
While the price paid for the club was not disclosed, it was sold for more than $14 million in 2000.
Nowadays, the homes on the course are worth much more than that.
One of the 40-odd homes currently for sale on the course is on the market for $23 million, according to mls.ca.
Mayor Tom Mrakas and course general manager Stuart Brindle said they feel secure in what they’ve been told by Trillyan spokespeople.
“These days when people hear a golf course is sold their minds go to development,” said Brindle, who has been at the club and reporting to Magna International since 2014, “but (Trillyan) is committed to what we are doing at the club.”
Mrakas echoed his statements suggesting the golf course is one of the most “prestigious in the GTA and possibly Ontario.”
“I think that losing some for our most valuable green spaces is very upsetting to the whole community,” he said. “I feel assured and encouraged that Magna will be here for many years to come.”
Having said that, Mrakas also reasserted his belief that the province needs to do something about the increasing number of courses falling to developers in the region.
“We need to look at policies from provincial and federal level, but more provincial,” he added. “People buy these properties and they pay a premium, years later to lose that, is not right. The conversation needs to be had.”
Others are not so sure the course is safe from development.
Former longtime councillor Evelyn Buck says it’s all but an inevitability the golf course will be developed in the future, suggesting the idea that development can't occur on the Oak Ridges Moraine, a widely-held fallacy.
However, she insists she's not against developing the course.
“Opposition comes from people with a home here already,” she said. “They get here and they don’t want anyone else up here.”
As for the potential loss of wildlife, Buck insists she sees animals living around her home, which is built on old farmland, including squirrels, birds, skunks, raccoons and others.
Coun. John Gallo echoed Buck’s belief that development is “inevitable,” explaining that if Aurora was to open up to more development, he’d prefer it was along public transit lines rather than on golf courses.
He further noted that he’d like to see a system where council has the final word on developments, doing away with the current model of the board having final say.
“I think the final decision should rest with councillors,” he said.
Environmentalists, like George Skoulikas, president of Save The Henderson Forest Rate Payers Association, insists the woodlands, wetlands and wetcourses, like creeks and ponds, on Magna golf course are vital parts of Aurora and York Region’s ‘green infrastructure’ that should not be lost.
“(The Oak Ridges Moraine) controls flooding, maintains forests, trees, clean air, reduces soil erosion and produces natural habitats for our animals,” he said. “When you chip away at green infrastructure, you chip away at the ecological integrity of the land.”
Magna representative Tracy Fuerst said the move will assist the club to move on to more appropriate owners.
“The transaction is an important step for Magna and the Magna Golf Club to transition the club to an owner who can provide continued stability and long-term growth prospects,” she wrote in an email.
The Trillyan spokesperson believes members may see an improvement in service."In the near future, we will work to improve the operations and service levels of the Club,” the person wrote. “We have been investing in Toronto for the past decade, and particularly in Aurora for the past few years. We will continue to be a contributing member of the community.”