Provincial tribunal begins on Sudbury arena and casino, but confusion over new rules delays decision
City of Greater Sudbury facing 5 different appeals of decision to build new arena and casino
Debate over the new rules for provincial planning appeals could push an actual decision on Sudbury's controversial Kingsway Entertainment District well into the new year.
One of the first proceedings of the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal or LPAT in Toronto led to questions about a new rule forbidding anyone but the tribunal adjudicators from calling and examining witnesses.
A divisional court has now been asked to review that procedure, which means no other LPAT hearings can be scheduled in the meantime.
That includes the appeals for the new casino and arena in Sudbury, which city council approved earlier this year.
Under the new provincial law, a decision was required to be reached before a June deadline, but the tribunal has now pressed pause on that timeline.
All sides met for the first time before a three-person panel of the tribunal on Tuesday in Sudbury.
That includes lawyers for the City of Greater Sudbury, Gateway Casinos, developer Dario Zulich (who was given official standing) and the five appeals.
Lawyer Gordon Petch is representing the Downtown business association, along with anti-casino activist Tom Fortin and Christopher Duncanson-Hales, who himself is representing several dozen faith groups in Sudbury.
John Lindsay from the Minnow Lake Restoration Group is also appealing and is representing himself at the tribunal, as is Sudbury planner and activist Steve May.
'Playing with dust'
The sides spent the entire first day of the proceeding wrangling over procedural questions, including Petch's insistence that jurisdictional questions about city council's approval of an expanded casino be answered before anything else is sorted out.
At issue is whether or not the tribunal can consider if council followed the rules, including considering socioeconomic consequences of a casino, when it greenlighted the expansion of gambling in Greater Sudbury back in 2012.
"We don't even know if there's jurisdiction," argued Petch.
"Before you make a ruling, we're just playing with dust."
Tribunal member David Lanthier, a lawyer based in Cochrane, said the eight sides of the argument "should have already banged heads" to sort out some of these procedural questions before the panel arrived in Sudbury.
Mediation still possible
Unlike the old Ontario Municipal Board process, the tribunal is required to ask the opposing sides to consider mediation.
Zulich's lawyer Daniel Artenosi was in favour of trying to resolve the dispute outside of a tribunal setting but doesn't "think we can force it."
City lawyer Stephen Watt seemed to think that was unlikely, saying "you never say never."
If they do go ahead with mediation, it could delay a final decision even further.
The next step after Tuesday's initial case management conference is hold a second such meeting, but a date for that has not yet been set.