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McCausland seeks assurances from KED partners in motion to council

Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland’s motion to council asks staff to negotiate ‘reciprocal commitments’ to advance each partner’s components of the Kingsway Entertainment District
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Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland. (File)

Frustrated by how limited the written commitments have been from the Kingsway Entertainment District’s partners, Ward 4 Geoff McCausland is taking action.

At the end of the Sept. 28 city council meeting, he introduced a motion that would seek to put pen to paper, but the motion timed out when the meeting hit its three-hour mark. 

McCausland was among those to vote against extending that night’s meeting beyond its three-hour time limit to accommodate a vote on his motion, which carried.

“I’m happy to make sure that everybody has the time they need to consider what’s in front of them,” he said on Friday, adding that a number of councillors had expressed needing more time to look into its implications. 

Rather than have the vote face potential defeat earlier this week, he said it’s best everyone around the table knows what, exactly, they are voting on.

The motion will re-emerge, at the start of the Oct. 12 city council meeting, and will again read:

“To further support the project’s success, and without affecting the advancement of the project, staff negotiate with the project partners to establish a new contract for the construction phase of the Kingsway Entertainment District that adds reciprocal commitments to advance each partner’s project to substantial completion, establishes timelines for construction and to report the results of this agreement for council’s consideration no later than Dec. 14, 2021.”

The motion, which McCausland said he has been drafting for the past couple of weeks, is deliberately worded so as to neither delay the project nor throw barriers at its partners. 

“A lot of people vote against stuff that I bring forward because they assume it’s just a delay tactic,” he said. “I promise that’s not ever been the case. It’s about doing things well and getting the answers we need.”

Further, he pointed out the motion clarifies that staff “negotiate” with the project’s partners to establish reciprocal commitments and not thrust anything upon them. 

During Tuesday’s city council meeting, a divided city council voted 7-6 in favour of moving forward with site preparation work at the KED, which is to begin by Nov. 29. 

During council’s discussion that night it was reaffirmed that the project’s partners, including Gateway Casinos & Entertainment, the developer (a numbered company headed by Sudbury Wolves owner Dario Zulich) and an unnamed hotel represented by the developer, have no written commitments to the project beyond site preparation work. 

The discussion around the table was that the developers have sunk millions of dollars into things such as site preparation work and legal costs, which makes it unlikely they back out now.

“I think it’s a terrible idea, but if that’s where everybody wants to go then I feel like we need to have some assurances that we’re not going to finish building up the early works and then everybody just says, 'Yeah, sorry, the time isn’t right to actually do something … so we’re going to sit on this land … and not actually follow through with our piece of the puzzle,’” McCausland said.

For the city to move forward on an arena project most recently estimated to cost taxpayers approximately $115 million, he asked, “Shouldn’t we have some kind of agreement to protect that and make sure the plan we’ve devised is going to be realized?”

The Oct. 12 city council meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and a live-stream can be accessed by clicking here.