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The rumour has been picking up velocity for weeks. And while the principals are denying there is anything to it, or not returning calls, it won't go away.

What is it they're talking about? A plan that would see Shaughnessy Golf Club move locations and take over the Musqueam's newly acquired University Golf Club, which is situated in the same leafy neighbourhood as the prestigious private course.

If true - and it's difficult to find anyone who doesn't think the deal makes certain sense - it would mean the Musqueam would get access to the 160 acres of prime riverfront land upon which Shaughnessy Golf Club now sits, more than 20 years earlier than scheduled.

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Shaughnessy's lease with the Musqueam expires in 2033. Knowing that the band has no intention of renewing the lease because of plans to develop the property, Shaughnessy purchased a golf course in the nearby suburb of Richmond as a possible future site for its club after 2033.

Everything changed, however, when the provincial government announced in November, 2007, that it was giving the UBC public golf course and some adjacent land to the Musqueam as part of a land-claim settlement.

Outraged golfers at UBC, assuming their course would be turned into condos, were momentarily reassured when the government announced that as part of the deal the band had to commit to keep the site a golf course until 2083.

But then a few eagle-eyed golfers read the fine print of the agreement.

The band had to commit to keeping the property a golf course until 2082 - but it didn't say a "public" golf course.

"I talked to both the Musqueam and provincial government lawyers after the news release came out and both were adamant that the word public not be included in the agreement, thus paving the way for a private club to enter into a long-term lease," said Keith Morrison, a retired bank executive and a regular golfer at UBC.

"And in the last few weeks, the rumour of some kind of future deal with Shaughnessy has really taken off. It would be outrageous but I can also see it happening."

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Chief Ernie Campbell of the Musqueam did not return calls yesterday.

But former Musqueam chief Gail Sparrow said in an interview it was her understanding "that there have been some talks about this."

"I definitely know it's something that is being considered," said the former long-time band councillor. "But any deal would have to be approved by the entire band. So we'll have to see."

But David Wood, general manager of Shaughnessy Golf Club, said there are no talks under way with the Musqueam.

"I've heard the same rumour," he said. "[The Musqueam]have said they would like to talk one day but until that day arrives there is no story, sorry."

However, a well-connected member at Shaughnessy, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there have been some preliminary "conversations" between certain people at the golf club and people in executive positions at the band office.

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"It's all very early," said the source. "No one wants this to become a story until after the next provincial election because of the harm it could do to Gordon Campbell. He's a member at Shaughnessy. So is his wife. So you won't get anyone confirming anything until after that, trust me. But there's going to be a deal. It makes too much sense."

It does.

There is no enthusiasm among the well-heeled members of Shaughnessy, most of whom live on the west side of the city, to have to drive out to Richmond to play their golf. If the club could take over UBC, and turn it into a first-class course, it would be the perfect solution to their pending dislocation woes.

And give the Musqueam access to an instant gold mine.

It's anyone's guess what the Musqueam would do with the Shaughnessy property. But it's a given it would plow under what is considered one of the finest golf courses in the country. One that has played host to some of the biggest golf tournaments, including the Canadian Open.

The band, it seems, would not be subject to the same zoning restrictions that every other developer in the city faces. In other words, it could put up just about anything it wanted to on the site, including a destination casino, something that has become a popular revenue source for native organizations.

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Influential city realtor Bob Rennie said that when you're talking about the Shaughnessy land, you're looking at "a billion-dollar property."

"You would have developers throughout the city lining up to be part of that project," said Mr. Rennie. "It's the ultimate townhouse property.

"Or you could do 100 homes at $1-million per lot. It would be absolutely huge - it would be hard to understate it.

"Even if it's all hush hush right now in fantasy, it makes perfect sense. Why wouldn't the Musqueam do this?"

Look for a lot of denials in the next few months. But look for something to happen down the road. As everyone is saying, it makes too much sense.

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