Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti is keeping up his dogged fight to stop the Kingsway Entertainment District.
Signoretti has two motions on next week's city council docket, one that would revoke the authority councillors gave staff to enter agreements necessary to complete the KED, while the other would stop spending on preparing the site for construction until legal appeals are resolved.
Since the project was approved, Signoretti has taken almost every opportunity at city council to argue against the KED, which would see Sudbury Arena move to the Kingsway, with the $100-million arena built alongside two private projects: a $60 million Gateway Casino and a hotel.
Planning changes were approved early in 2018, but the project was immediately appealed to the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal. Local clergyman Christopher Duncanson-Hales is appealing the casino; local activist Steve May is appealing the arena; the Minnow Lake Restoration Group is appealing the parking lot; and, businessman Tom Fortin and the downtown Sudbury BIA are appealing all of the decisions.
Renowned planning lawyer Gordon Petch is representing Fortin, the BIA and Duncanson-Hales, while May is representing himself and local activist John Lindsay is representing the Minnow Lake group.
While the original timeline for a decision was June of this year, a first meeting to deal with the appeals last November ground to a halt over a number of procedural issues. Those are largely based on the fact the LPAT process is brand new and the legality of new, streamlined rules have yet to be tested in the court system.
However, in a report released last week by the LPAT, members of the tribunal also chided the groups appealing the project for not being prepared for the first meeting, which are known as case management conferences (CMC).
The goal of the CMCs is to come up with an agreed list of issues the tribunal will have to deal with at the formal hearing. Before the hearing, groups appealing the same decision are supposed to discuss a shared list of issues to present to the tribunal for a decision, but that didn't happen.
“It was insufficient for the parties to collectively appear before the tribunal at the CMC without having discussed the possibility of an agreed statement of facts or list of issues in preparation for the CMC,” the report said.
The new process aims to streamline decisions, which “obligates the parties to attend the CMC prepared to address all procedural matters in a meaningful and productive fashion so the parties can move forward to a final hearing without delay.”
However, the tribunal agreed to stop the clock on the process and to schedule a second CMC. The parties agreed to file information on their motions in December and January, after which a date will be set for the second meeting, which could be held by telephone.
But the LPAT did agree that the actual hearing – when the tribunal will interview experts and other witnesses — will be oral, and directed the parties to ensure certain people would be available to answer questions.
The witnesses include city planning staff, consultant Rowan Faludi (who prepared a report for Fortin and the BIA), and Karl Tanner, a private planner employed by developer Dario Zulich.
When it is scheduled, Petch will have 75 minutes to make his arguments on behalf of his three clients: Fortin, the BIA and Duncanson-Hales. May and Lindsay will get 75 minutes each. Lawyers for the city, Zulich and Gateway will also each get 75 minutes to make their case.
Key to the appeals process is a decision by the LPAT on whether several of the objections being raised by Petch – such as his argument a referendum was needed before the casino was approved – are part of planning rules and therefore within their jurisdiction.
Construction of the KED was to begin this spring, but a decision is now likely to come in the fall at the earliest. That puts particular pressure on Gateway, who had hoped to move to the Kingsway in 2020, when their lease at Sudbury Downs in Chelmsford expires.