Sudbury council votes to begin blasting at Kingsway Entertainment District site
Tensions were high with a 7-6 vote to pursue next phase of project to prepare it for site excavation
In a close vote Tuesday night, Sudbury city council decided to move ahead with the next phase of the Kingsway Entertainment District (KED) project, which could mean blasting at the site by Nov. 29 to prepare it for excavation.
The 7-6 vote supported a motion to begin site preparation for the $100-million project, which is expected to include an arena, casino and hotel, before end of November. The motion also directed city staff to finalize negotiations with Bot Engineering & Construction, which will handle blasting and site preparation work.
Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh abstained from the vote, but a city clerk said an abstention counts as a no vote.
Tensions were high as both sides of the KED debate made their cases on whether or not the project should move forward as soon as possible.
Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan said waiting on blasting and preparing the site for the development would mean longer delays.
"We need to approve this so we can hit the 2024 target," he said.
David Shelsted, the city's director of engineering services, said blasting would need to begin by winter to keep the project on track.
"Blasting is a relatively good thing to do over the winter time," he said. "It's not temperature dependent like concrete pouring, asphalt placement or steel erection would be."
Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger also supported moving ahead with the project.
"The partners that we're moving forward with, they each have business cases." Bigger said. "They each have commitments to others."
Those partners include Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Limited, which would operate the proposed casino, and Sudbury developer Dario Zulich.
Concerns around commitments
But councillors who voted against Tuesday's motion said they were concerned there were no written commitments from those partners.
"All I'm hearing are verbal commitments, I'm not hearing any contractual (commitments), so that is a red flag to me," said Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland, who voted against Tuesday's motion.
Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier, who has previously abstained from votes related to the development due to his involvement in the motorsports industry, also voted against the motion. Montpellier had the same concerns as McCausland, about a lack of written commitments.
Because there is no longer a motor sports component attached to the KED project, Montpellier voted on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, council asked police to investigate reports of bribery related to a vote on the KED in 2017.
The vote was unanimous. Sudbury Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer brought forward the motion following media reports that have suggested Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier was offered a bribe by developers to support the entertainment district project.
In an interview with CBC Sudbury, Montpellier said representatives of developer Dario Zulich and Gateway Casinos, did approach him to make the case for the proposed project.
But he maintained he was never offered a bribe.
The Ontario Provincial Police has taken over the investigation into alleged bribery.