Obviously, I am very disappointed with the decision. I believe that the appellants raised serious and significant issues related to public policy as expressed by the unwavering direction that the City had appeared committed to with regards to putting a new arena in the downtown. As we know, after years of building public expectation that a new arena would be located in the downtown, through the production of reports and plans like the Downtown Sudbury Master Plan, and “From the Ground Up”, the city’s economic development plan, one vote by Council on the night of June 27, 2017 upended public expectations. Significant public consultation had gone into informing the development of the plans that called for a downtown arena, but Council’s decision back in 2017 ignored those plans in favour of a new direction informed by interests different from those previously expressed by the public.
The ability of the appellants to present a fulsome case in this matter were restricted by the courts, which made a decision in Toronto that impacted the scope of our hearing in Greater Sudbury. The Toronto Rail Deck decision turned the new Bill 139 LPAT process into one that heavily favoured municipalities over public citizens like myself and the other appellants. Eventually, the LPAT’s flawed hearing process was altered, but not in time to prevent our hearing from going forward under the flawed rules. Had the appeals been filed prior to or after the Bill 139 process being in place, I believe today’s outcome would have been significantly different.
That said, Greater Sudburians should have every confidence that the city, the intervening parties, the appellants and the LPAT all engaged in the spirit of resolving the appeals expeditiously and professionally. As an unrepresented party, I was given every opportunity to fully participate in the hearing. Although the legislative process for the hearing, and the hearing’s outcome were disappointing for me, I have nothing but respect for my fellow appellants, municipal staff and the legal teams that engaged in this matter before the Tribunal, and for the Tribunal itself.
Although the city now has the ability to move forward with this project, I have to echo the concerns and cautions expressed by so many other taxpaying citizens in my community. COVID-19 has changed everything. A decision back in 2017 to pursue a new entertainment district in an industrial area on the urban fringe may no longer make sense in light of today's fiscal realities. The long-term sustainability and and health of the community now more than ever needs to take centre stage at this time of uncertainty.
I’ll be reviewing the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal’s decision over the holidays to see whether there are any concerns that merit further action.