Lansdowne Park plan OK'd by Ottawa council

Ottawa city council approved Monday evening the controversial partnership plan with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group to redevelop Landsdowne Park.

Acquiring CFL team a condition of approval

Ottawa city council approved Monday evening the controversial partnership plan with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group to redevelop Landsdowne Park.

Councillors voted 15-9 in favour of the plan, but it does not mean an end to the debate over the deal. There could still be legal challenges and appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board.

Before the vote, councillors met for more than 12 hours and dealt one by one with a thick package of 50 amendments to the plan.

One amendment that was approved instructs city management to negotiate a below-market-rent deal for the city to use Frank Clair Stadium.

Coun. Diane Deans said it wouldn't make sense to pay $130 million of taxpayers' dollars to restore the stadium and then have to pay full rent to use it.

Another condition added to the Landsdowne Partnership Plan, which has been discussed and debated for months, was that the deal will be automatically terminated if OSEG doesn't sign a CFL football team within 90 days.

Earlier Monday, councillors voted 15-9 against a motion brought forward by Bay Ward Coun. Alex Cullen, who wanted the decision on the public-private partnership with the OSEG to be delayed until after the municipal election on Oct. 25.

Under the redevelopment plan, the city would upgrade and renovate the hockey arena and Frank Clair Football Stadium at the 16-hectare central Ottawa property on Bank Street, just north of the Rideau Canal. OSEG would bring a CFL franchise and build shops, restaurants and condos at the site.

In proposing his motion, which was seconded by Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Michel Bellemare, Cullen noted that a clause within the plan allows the newly elected council to cancel the project. It also states that a number of steps fundamental to the implementation of the project will have to be made by the new council anyway, including:

  • The approval of the full master plan for the site.
  • The approval of final financial agreements.
  • The conclusion of negotiations with the federal government regarding their lands adjacent to the park.

'Voting blind'

In fact, councillors found out late last week that the final site plan for the proposal might not be ready until Nov. 24, just days before the current council's term ends and the new council takes over.

Kitchissippi Coun. Christine Leadman said earlier that means the current council would be "voting blind" by making a decision Monday.

She added that in her opinion, the current proposal falls short of expectations.

"If people are happy to settle with mediocrity, that is very unfortunate for the city. To me this is not a vision, this is not a 'wow,' this is … 'Good God, can we not do better than this?'"

But Orléans Coun. Bob Monette, who supported the plan, said councillors have all the information they needed to vote.

"We've had hundreds … of hours of legal opinions and administration work on this," he said. "We've gone through this in depth and it's time now to make a decision."