City sued over Lansdowne project
'It's time to really bring forward the facts,' resident says
Opponents of the Lansdowne Park redevelopment have filed a court challenge to quash city council's decision to approve the $300-million project.
Two Ottawa residents, Gary Sealy and Doug Ward, and the group Friends of Lansdowne Park contend the city acted "illegally" when it approved the project in June without a competitive bidding process.
Sealy said the deal has so many problems, he felt he had to act. "This is the right thing to do," he said. "It's time to really bring forward the facts on what is being planned here."
The court application alleges that the city broke a half-dozen municipal and provincial regulations by entering into a partnership with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group without seeking other bids. It also says the planned revamp of Lansdowne Park may endanger some of its heritage features.
The application, filed Thursday in Ontario Superior Court, seeks to overturn council's decision and prevent the city from starting construction until the matter is dealt with.
"The first principle of fairness and transparency, when it comes to public procurement, is a competitive process. And that didn't happen," said the applicants' lawyer, Steven Shrybman. "It's just not a prudent way to spend money, and certainly not public funds."
Both the city's chief solicitor and auditor general have told councillors their decision was above board. The city denies any illegality, stating on its website that it has an independent legal opinion that it didn't have to tender the project.
The public-private partnership with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group calls for the city to spend $175 million to refurbish Frank Clair stadium, renovate the Civic Centre hockey arena, create a new urban park and re-locate tradeshow and exhibition space.
OSEG, a group of local developers and entrepreneurs headed by Roger Greenberg of Minto Corporation, plans to bring a Canadian Football League franchise to Ottawa and build shops, restaurants and condos on the site.
The city says it would draw revenues from the development in the form of increased business and commercial taxes, as well as the future sales of rights for high-rise developments on the site. Ottawa would borrow about $165 million for the project and repay it over a 40-year period.
Friends of Lansdowne Park's lawsuit will have its first hearing in November, with a decision expected in February, before construction is set to begin.