The only current build commitment for the Kingsway Entertainment District is limited to initial site preparation.
This is the message the City of Greater Sudbury is expected to share through a public media notification, as per a motion by Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier, which a divided city council voted in favour of tonight.
The motion was a simple one, Montpellier explained to his colleagues, and was intended to set the record straight.
The fact there is no written agreement for the construction of a hotel and casino at the KED site has been long-established, but Montpellier’s motion pointed out that “one councillor using authoritative overtones continues to claim on social media that such a commitment does exist.”
Although Montpellier didn’t name names, the councillor in question is Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan, who persisted during tonight’s meeting with the claim that “there’s a position that says there is” a build agreement.
As he has in the past, Kirwan cited Section 15(1) of the cost-sharing agreement as evidence, which the city’s own website affirms focuses “particularly on the common areas/works and blasting. Each partner is responsible for the development of their own site, including buildings and parking lots.”
“I’m tongue-tied that Coun. Kirwan would disagree with two lawyers,” Montpellier said, pointing to city clerk and solicitor Eric Labelle and city integrity commissioner Robert Swayze.
“Why the reluctance to say the truth? Everyone else knows it!”
“We’re not lawyers,” Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland said, questioning the relevance of a city councillor’s interpretation of contractual documents.
Earlier in the meeting, Montpellier relayed the following quote from Swayze: “I have inquired of staff as to the status of the KED and I have been advised that the only firm agreement in place is for the contribution to preparing the site from the developer and the Casino with the City also contributing. There is no legal commitment from these parties to build anything.”
Although Swayze didn’t speak up on this matter during tonight’s meeting, he was on the call and didn’t argue the authenticity of Montpellier’s quotation.
During a special city council meeting last month, Labelle clarified: “The agreement that we have is an agreement that commits the parties to the early works and the site preparation costs,” which was a point that city executive director of Strategic Initiatives, Communications and Citizen Service Ian Wood also shared.
Now’s the time for the city to set the record straight, Montpellier said, adding that the misinformation being shared has been going on for years and has caused distress and confusion.
Supporting Montpellier’s motion was Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti, Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini, Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland, Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh, Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier and Mayor Brian Bigger.
Voting against the motion was Kirwan, Ward 6 Coun. René Lapierre, Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo, Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer, Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc and Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyn Landry-Altmann.
With Montpellier’s motion passing, the city should soon issue public notice of the lack of build commitment for the KED beyond site preparation work.
As for site preparation work, it was supposed to commence on Nov. 29, but Gateway Casinos decided to put things on hold until some points of uncertainty are clarified, including a legal challenge and an allegation of an attempted bribe. They’ve noted that they remain committed to the project and that this is a delay and not a cancellation.
When site-preparation work finally commences, Kirwan said he plans on bringing forward a motion to have the city sign “a legally-binding agreement with the other two parties to build the arena/events centre and not have to deal with every single time it comes on council the possibility of it being voted down.”
Lacking a build agreement from the project’s partners, McCausland plans on tabling a motion at a future meeting that would seek stronger assurances from the KED partners at some point prior to construction of the arena.
Also during tonight’s meeting, Montpellier tabled a community petition with more than 3,500 signatures from people opposed to the KED.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.