Laurentian board chair says concerns about green space sell-off taken seriously
Community groups concerned 230 hectare green space will be sold to developers to cover school debt
Laurentian University's interim board chair assured members of the Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury that concerns about green space sell-off are being taken seriously.
During a Laurentian Board of Governors meeting Friday, the coalition argued the insolvent university should not sell its green spaces as it undergoes a review of its real estate assets.
"I want to assure everyone that both the presentation today and those letters and emails are being read," said Jeff Bangs, Laurentian's interim board chair.
"They are being taken seriously, they are being considered in our overall decision-making we're going to be doing now and in the weeks and months ahead."
Naomi Grant, the Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury's co-chair, and Franco Mariotti, a retired staff scientist at Science North and coalition member, argued the university's 230 hectares of green space are too important to the community to be sold off to developers to cover school debt.
Mariotti said the trails within that property are important for the health and well-being of Sudburians. He also said green spaces are home to two threatened species and are important to the health of the local watershed, which includes five lakes.
"The LU green space and trails are essential to the future success of Laurentian University, and equally to our community," he said.
"It is a community asset and a quality of life issue the community is not willing to lose."
Grant said Laurentian uses the green space in its marketing materials to attract students and staff members. She added a number of community groups, such as cross country ski clubs, also use the trails and green space.
"We're grateful that the board of governors also has a longstanding position against the development of the LU green space," Grant said.
"I'm here looking to the board of governors for a public statement that LU green space will not be sold or monetized."
Board members did not make a statement that the green space would not be sold or monetized, but interim chair Bangs did say he heard their message.
"You're passionate about something that is very, very important to this community and your message is heard loud and clear," he said.
Laurentian confirmed its board of governors received a comprehensive real estate review it conducted with the real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield in early February.
"The detailed information contained in the reports will help to inform key decisions the board will take related to the university's financial plan and emergence from CCAA as a financially sustainable institution," Laurentian said in an email to CBC News.
In addition to the green space, Laurentian also has a number of properties, such as the president's house, the Bell Mansion, which is home to the Art Gallery of Sudbury, and buildings on campus that it could either sell or rent out.
Laurentian's restructuring under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) was extended to May 31, 2022.
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