Kingsway Entertainment District appeal hearing wraps up with no end in sight to legal wrangling
SUDBURY -- Anyone hoping Thursday's hearing would be a final stage of the appeals of Sudbury's Kingsway Entertainment District were sorely disappointed.
The lawyer representing Sudbury businessman Tom Fortin announced he will appeal a recent Superior Court decision rejecting arguments city council was biased when it approved the Kingsway Entertainment District.
Gordon Petch told members of the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal the appeal will be made by Oct. 2, and a decision on that case is expected to take six months or longer. And, as one lawyer mentioned Thursday, even if the LPAT rules in the city's favour, that decision could also be appealed.
While the LPAT hearings were scheduled to last two days, chair David Lanthier said at the start of the hearing he wanted to finish Thursday, even if they have to work late. Almost eight hours later, the proceedings were completed.
'These proceedings are of great interest'
At the hearing, Petch is representing Fortin, the downtown Sudbury Business Improvement Area and a group of local faith leaders lead by Christopher Duncanson-Hales. Sudbury resident Steve May is also appealing the decision.
On the other side is a lawyer for Greater Sudbury, Gateway Casinos and developer Dario Zulich.
Lanthier said the tribunal will issue its decision as quickly as possible.
"We know these proceedings are of great interest to the community," Lanthier said.
In his comments, Petch said city council failed to truly listen to the arguments put forward by opponents before approving the planning changes necessary in 2018.
He said it's one thing to hold a meeting, it's another to really listen to what people are saying.
"These people wanted to be heard," Petch said. "Really heard."
He made several arguments, including the lack of a social impact study before approving the casino, a lack of an economic impact study before deciding to remove the arena from downtown, the zoning changes were contrary to city and provincial planning rules, among several other arguments.
Part of city's strategy
He said keeping the arena was part of the city's own downtown strategy to revive the area economically. Instead, council voted to build those amenities on the Kingsway, Petch said, without studying the impact.
Stephen Watt, lawyer for Greater Sudbury, argued that opponents haven't met the requirements under LPAT legislation which requires opponents demonstrate "clear conflicts with planning policies."
Instead their arguments amount to, "more study please," Watt said. "The appellants haven't pointed to a single policy … that would make these approvals non compliant."
Watt, along with lawyers from Gateway Casinos and for developer Dario Zulich, all asked the tribunal to dismiss the case.
Lawyer Daniel Artenosi, representing Zulich, said opponents must show how the city broke planning rules, not argue that one site is better than another.
He said many of Petch's arguments may have been relevant if the LPAT was starting from scratch, as the former Ontario Municipal Board did. Instead, it is an appeals body examining the decision and deciding whether the decision conforms to planning laws.
"We're requesting the tribunal dismiss all appeals," Artenosi said.
Andrew Jeanrie, lawyer for Gateway, argued the issues being raised in the appeal "are largely irrelevant," in also asking for a dismissal.
Lanthier noted that the appeal of the Superior Court decision hasn't yet been filed, and asked the lawyers whether the LPAT should wait until that case is completed before releasing its own decision.
Petch was in favour of waiting, but Jeanrie said the process has already gone on for a long time, and waiting for Superior Court would make it even longer.
"The Superior Court decision (could take) eight to 10 months," he said.
And whatever the LPAT decides could be appealed as well, Jeanrie said, making the process even longer.
Lanthier said he wasn't yet sure of the best way forward.
"I haven't fully wrapped my mind around it," he said. "I'd like to step back and think about it for a day or two."