(Mainly) Political Musings from "Sudbury" Steve May, Officer of the Nickel Belt Greens.
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
An Open Letter to Greater Sudbury Council Regarding the Downtown 'Large Projects' Site Selection Process
The following is an open letter
to Greater Sudbury Council regarding a request for decision on a
report to Council dated November 15, 2017, titled, “Greater Sudbury
Convention and Performance Centre / Library Art Gallery Update,”.
The request for decision recommends that the current site of the
Sudbury Community Arena be selected by Council for the home of a new
convention/performing arts centre, hotel, art gallery and library. ----
I read with interest the report
prepared by Staff recommending that the existing Sudbury Community
Arena be selected by Council to be the home for the Greater Sudbury
Convention and Performance Centre (formerly known as 'the Synergy
Centre'), a new library branch, an art gallery and a hotel facility.
I understand that the City assembled an internal team to evaluate
sites based on Council's previously selected and prioritized
criteria, and are now recommending that Council proceed by formally
selecting the Sudbury Community Arena site.
I support the initiatives as
identified by Council through the Large Projects exercise. However,
selecting the existing site of the Sudbury Community Arena to be the
home for these projects is problematic and fraught with risk for the
City and we taxpayers.
That Council is being asked to
make this decision before engaging with the public and business
community as part of a public process to determine the best site or
sites for these facilities is a real concern and appears to be yet
another example in what can clearly be described as this Council's
systemic lack of interest in public consultation.
Selecting the Sudbury Community
Arena site to be the home for the Downtown 'Large Projects' is a very
risky choice for taxpayers at this time. Built into that decision is
the need to relocate existing tenants of the Sudbury Community Arena
to a different facility before construction can begin. While I
understand that Council has expressed its intention to build a new
community events centre on a site located on the Kingsway, that site
is currently zoned for industrial uses.
Until the Kingsway site is
determined to be viable through an appropriate and public land use
process, and until lands in that location are acquired by the City
and ready for development, it is premature to conclude that the
Kingsway site is in fact suitable for the use recommended by Council.
This is not an academic argument, by the way. It is within the
realm of possibility that Council's decision to select the Kingsway
site for a new community events centre will not be supported by
future land use decisions of Council, or by the Ontario Municipal
Board, due to a lack of conformity with the City of Greater Sudbury
Risk of the Kingsway site not
moving forward, however, did not form any part of Staff's site
evaluation to Council. This appears to me to be a glaring omission –
and one that could lead to a domino effect where none of Council's
'Large Projects' end up proceeding.
Lack of Public Engagement
Along with a missing risk
assessment, municipal staff are recommending Council make a decision
on a site in absence of any significant and orderly public
consultation process. Instead of consulting with the public prior to
recommending a decision for Council, staff have instead built public
consultation into the process only after Council has selected a site.
This appears to me to be fundamentally at odds with how the City
should be reaching out to we residents. Real public engagement
should start with a relatively blank slate. Public engagement should
seek out impacted stakeholders, such as in this case the residents of
the Downtown and the Downtown business community. There should be
opportunities for all citizens to share observations and make
suggestions that contribute to an outcome whereby the City has
obtained a social license for development.
Again, this isn't an academic
observation. The lack of a defined public process leading to
Council's 6-6 decision to refuse a Downtown Community Events Centre
created real division in our community – division that would likely
have been tempered had all stakeholders and members of the public
been able to participate in a public engagement process prior to
Council's vote. What happened regarding the events centre appears to
be about to happen again.
A Better Outcome
There is no good reason for
Council to opt to make a decision on a site for the convention
centre, library and art gallery at this time. Council should defer
making any decision until a fulsome public engagement process has
been undertaken by the City, and cost/benefit analyses have been
prepared for each of the competing sites, so as to better inform
The public should be engaged
throughout the site selection process, including the formulation of
site selection criteria and their prioritization. After all, it is
our tax dollars which are in part going towards funding these uses,
and it is we citizens who will achieve the majority of the benefit of
these uses – through active use on our part, and through the
economic activities which these uses are expected to contribute to
And further, until a more fulsome
land use process has determined the appropriateness for the Kingsway
industrial site to play host to a new community events centre,
offering up the existing Sudbury Community Arena site as a potential
home for other 'Large Projects' should not be considered at all.
Thank you for your consideration
of this input. (opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)