A motion to seek stronger assurances from the Kingsway Entertainment District’s partners has been put on hold to be re-tabled at a future city council meeting.
The Nov. 3 special city council meeting was not the time to bring it forward, Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland told Sudbury.com, adding that he intends on fine-tuning the motion and raising it again.
In September, city council greenlit site preparation work at the Kingsway Entertainment District property, which is an estimated $9.4-million job the four partners are cost-sharing.
The city is committing $5.9 million, Gateway Casinos & Entertainment has committed $2.2 million, the developer’s share is $530,000 and the developer, a numbered company headed by Dario Zulich, is also responsible for the hotel share of $1.1 million.
With written agreements in place for this stage of development, for which ground is expected to break by the end of the month, McCausland said the wheels are already in motion.
“Really, until we're deciding whether to move forward with the whole event centre and we get an RFP (request for proposals) back, we don't necessarily need to have this,” he said, adding that at that stage of the game it will become integral to obtain build commitments from the partners, which the city does not currently have.
“If we're going to go forward with this, we need to make sure that everybody else is going to build things the way that was originally planned,” he said, highlighting that the project is supposed to include a municipal arena, a hotel and casino.
“This is the opportunity to make sure that we're not going to be building a $115- to a $150-million arena with either a downsized casino, a downgraded hotel or neither of the above.”
Another key reason for delaying the motion is that McCausland wanted to help city council get through Wednesday night’s agenda, knowing that conversations about the KED are never short.
The meeting was called to help the city’s elected officials catch up on past agendas that timed out as a result of meetings hitting the three-hour mark and city council declining to vote in favour of extending proceedings.
Despite McCausland’s effort to avoid a KED-related debate, it took place anyway as a result of Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier pushing forward with concerns about KED build agreements.
The resulting hour-long debate became heated at times, with the meeting’s chair and Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer declaring at one point, “This is a friggin circus. Relax, people.”
During his line of questioning, Montpellier persisted in asking city administration for a “yes or no” answer to the question of whether there are written agreements beyond the initial site preparation.
“The agreement that we have is an agreement that commits the parties to the early works and the site preparation costs,” city solicitor and clerk Eric Labelle clarified — a point city executive director of Strategic Initiatives, Communications and Citizen Service Ian Wood also shared.
Despite city administration publicly confirming there is no written build agreement, Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan argued during the meeting that there is one, and has since taken to the Valley East Facebook page he moderates with his wife, Valerie, to state that there is.
“Any suggestion that one or more of the parties is not committed to moving forward is just not accurate,” he wrote. “All Councillors have access to the signed Cost Sharing Agreement.”
Kirwan cites Section 15(1) of this agreement, which reads: "Prior to the commencement of construction of the Early Works, any Party which has determined that it will not be proceeding with its respective Project for any reason, may terminate this Agreement upon not less than thirty (30) days notice in writing, given to each other Party in accordance with Section 19 and specifying the date of termination of this Agreement."
A rundown of the cost-sharing agreement on the City of Greater Sudbury’s website clarifies that the cost-sharing agreement 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.”
Also sussed out during Wednesday’s meeting was Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc’s assertion that an unnamed hotel partner is “fully committed to moving forward” and will “at their leisure make their announcement without being pushed.”
City administration has been instructed to reach out to the partners for an update so all members of city council have the same information Leduc said that he has.
McCausland first raised his motion during the Sept. 28 city council meeting, at which time it hit the meeting’s three-hour mark and timed out when city council opted against extending the meeting and has remained on the agenda ever since.
Following its preamble, the motion reads:
“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.”