Court hears Lansdowne appeal

Ottawa citizens' group Friends of Lansdowne is in Ontario's top court Monday in a last-ditch effort to halt the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park.

Friends of Lansdowne seeks to quash City of Ottawa redevelopment plan

A citizens' group in Ottawa is in the Ontario Court of Appeal in Toronto in the latest chapter of efforts to halt the multimillion-dollar redevelopment of Lansdowne Park.

Friends of Lansdowne is appealing a Superior Court decision in July that gave the City of Ottawa the go-ahead to follow through on the massive plan. The city argues it will "embrace the Rideau Canal, with a new expanded green space, revitalize the existing stadium and arena for sports and entertainment events, and stand as the model of modern-day innovation in an urban form, where people can go to walk, cycle, shop, enjoy a good meal, be entertained, work, live, and play in an environment respectful of our architectural heritage."

However, Friends of Lansdowne says the city broke numerous municipal and provincial regulations by entering into a partnership with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) without seeking other bids. It also argues the planned redevelopment may endanger some of the park's heritage features.

Instead, the group says, the park "needs to be revitalized in a way that is consistent with its heritage values and that will be sustainable for generations to come ... [and] must be guided by a process that is fair, open and fiscally responsible."

Friends of Lansdowne president June Creelman told CBC News before the appeal, which began at 10:30 a.m. ET in front of a panel of Chief Justice Warren Winkler and Superior Court Justices Robert Blair and Susan Lang at Osgoode Hall, that she hopes their efforts will set a precedent.

"The issues that are at stake are not just the issues that relate to Lansdowne Park and a particular development," she said. "It's about the way government works and how citizens are involved."

Group remains confident about appeal

Although it lost its attempt last summer to have a judge quash the city's redevelopment plan, Friends of Lansdowne says on its website it's "confident about the merits of our appeal."

The group's 47-page factum to the Court of Appeal says the case "raises fundamental questions concerning transparency and accountability in municipal governance, and the obligation of city staff and councillors to act in good faith and with due diligence."

Lansdowne Park, a 15-hectare site located in the heart of Ottawa, is bounded on two sides by the Rideau Canal, and is home to Frank Clair Stadium, the Civic Centre Arena, and two designated heritage buildings — the Aberdeen Pavilion and the Horticulture Building.

The factum says that while the park is often described as a city "jewel," a number of facilities on the site have been neglected by the city for several years.

It adds that the process for the redevelopment dates back to November 2007, when city council approved a "design competition" to solicit proposals for redeveloping the park. However, the factum says, while the competition got underway in early 2008 with public consultations that attracted hundreds of participants, "no further steps were taken to carry the design competition forward."

City argues nothing illegal about project

Legal efforts to halt the park's redevelopment remain a thorn in the city's side, so far costing $1.25 million.

While no City of Ottawa employees will be in Toronto for the appeal hearing, city lawyers will once again argue that even if people don't like the deal, there's nothing illegal about it.  

After hearing about Friends of Lansdowne's decision to appeal last summer, Orleans Coun. Bob Monette said, "The residents of Ottawa are tired of this nonsense. It's delaying the project, it's already delayed it a full year."

Monette added he is already upset with delaying professional football's return to Ottawa until 2014 and worries this could lengthen the wait.

"With this delay, who knows if it will delay it even longer. I'm not sure what they plan to achieve from this hearing," he said.