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Anti-KED group challenges city councillor to put his money where his mouth is in front of a judge

Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan is calling the Minnow Lake Restoration Group’s challenge of his legal opinion related to the Kingsway Entertainment District ‘ridiculous,’ says he doesn’t pay attention to the group anymore

The Minnow Lake Restoration Group is challenging Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan to prove his legal interpretation of the Kingsway Entertainment District’s cost-sharing agreement.

As reported last month, Kirwan remains steadfast in his belief that all parties in the KED are “legally bound to complete their projects” – a commitment built into the cost-sharing agreement. 

His legal opinion was not shared by city administration and the majority of city council members, who voted last month for the city to alert the public that “the only build commitment for the KED is limited to the site preparation.” 

At the time, Kirwan told Sudbury.com: “I will stand in front of a judge and argue in front of a judge with a lawyer who argues the other side and I will win.”

The Minnow Lake Restoration Group is calling him on it, and in a media release issued on Thursday offered Kirwan the means to prove his case. 

“The Divisional Court matter will not have witnesses for examination or cross examination in a court of law,” according to their media release. 

“There is no jury. A trio of judges will render their decision based on the evidence that MLRG provides to the court, the evidence that (the City of Greater Sudbury) provides to the court or any cross examination of any affidavits, factums or Examination for Discovery that have been submitted.”

The Minnow Lake Restoration Group has organized a location for Kirwan’s Examination of Discovery between Jan. 10 and Jan. 24.

“MLRG welcomes Councillor Kirwan to speak his peace as a sworn statement,” according to the release. “Though at this time, he has not responded to the offer.”

In conversation with Sudbury.com, Kirwan said he doesn’t open emails from people affiliated with the Minnow Lake Restoration Group or the city’s vocal anti-KED lobby. 

“I don’t even pay attention to them anymore,” he said, adding that he is reluctant to comment on their activities.

“I’ve basically said my piece on that site agreement,” he said. “It’s an agreement for the site plan, but built into that is, if you’re not going to go ahead with your project, tell us.”

The Minnow Lake Restoration Group’s push for him to prove his legal opinion is “ridiculous,” Kirwan said, also referring to it as “nonsense.”

“Nobody wants to bring it to court, so what’s the point?”

Further, both Kirwan and Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland have indicated they plan on tabling motions at city council that will push for some form of build commitment among the KED’s partners. These partners include the City of Greater Sudbury (arena), Genesis Hospitality (hotel), the land developer and Gateway Casinos. 

In Kirwan’s case, it would serve to put the minds of those who don’t agree with his legal opinion at ease, as well as commit the City of Greater Sudbury to following the arena through to completion. Although Gateway Casinos has put site preparation work on hold, in the event it proceeds, the $9.73-million cost is slated to be shared between the partners. The city would commit $5.9 million, Gateway Casinos & Entertainment would spend $2.2 million, the hotel share is $1.1 million and the developer’s share is $530,000. 

With this money on the line, Kirwan said the partners will likely want assurances from the city.

“Right now I would love to see the corporation committed,” he said. “Let’s sign it, commit the corporation to it, take it right out of the election.”

This is a municipal election year, with election day slated to take place on Oct. 24

Represented by lawyer Eric Gillespie, the Minnow Lake Restoration Group is pursuing a judicial review of city council’s handling of the KED. This ongoing legal action alleges that the mayor, council and senior staff made numerous errors in law and left inquiries from councillors unanswered.

If successful, the legal challenge would deem a July 14, 2021, vote of city council to proceed with the project null and void, which Gillespie said would stop arena expenditures immediately. 

Kirwan’s legal opinion related to the cost-sharing agreement is entirely separate from this challenge, which the Minnow Lake Restoration Group addresses in their media release, clarifying that they “wanted to provide Mr. Kirwan the ability to argue his position and reasoning, as a legally sworn statement.”

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.