Land deals made more than 50 years ago are becoming the flashpoint in a debate over what to do with the former Sudbury general hospital.

Panoramic Properties plans to turn the building into a 190-unit condominium complex.

Some have claimed that property was donated to the city by the Bell Family in the 1920s, and is protected from development by what is called the Bell Covenant.

But city planner Erik Taylor said that's not true, and stated that "those lands were all outside of the 1926 covenant lands."

But some of the hospital property was given to the city by the Bell Family in 1944 — and soon after, it was transferred to the Sisters of St. Joseph so a hospital could be built.

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Plans for the proposed condominiums that will displace the old hospital bought by developer Panoramic Properties. (CBC)

Resident Evan Roberts believes the developer's plan goes against the wishes of the Bell Family.

"The reason the generosity was extended in such a fashion [was that] it was a public hospital, not a private, for-profit condominium," Roberts said.

But, despite pledging to preserve it as a public space, the Sisters of St. Joseph sold the building to a company that now wants to turn the hospital into condominiums.

Doctor Stephane Sauve — who lives in the neighbourhood and once worked for the sisters at the hospital — said he hoped the religious order "would have understood the gift the city had given them back in 1945 and taken that into account."

Sudbury city council is still a few months away from making a decision on the development, but at its meeting Wednesday night councillors asked staff to take a closer look at how the Bell Covenant affects this project.