Both sides in Sudbury arena, casino squabble to meet as LPAT rules Kingsway appeals valid

All sides of the ongoing debate about the planned Kingsway Entertainment District in Greater Sudbury have circled Nov. 6, 2018 in the calendar

$100-million development on city's outskirts held up by appeals pushback

Tom Fortin is one of the opponents of the Kingsway Entertainment District. (Benjamin Aube/CBC)

All sides of the ongoing debate about the planned Kingsway Entertainment District in Greater Sudbury have circled Nov. 6, 2018 in the calendar. 

That's the date the the province's Local Planning Appeal Tribunal — or LPAT — has ordered all parties to convene for a mandatory public meeting, called a Case Management Conference.

This is the next step after the new land use appeals body — which recently replaced the Ontario Municipal Board — deemed that the various appeals put forward by opponents of the arena and casino vision are valid.

The LPAT says it's necessary to gather facts of the case, and to try to find opportunities for mediation.

Four appeals have been filed. They're all linked to one another, but touch on different concerns, including a lack of public consultation for the casino, to the city's choice to build a new $100 million community arena outside of the downtown.

Sudbury business owner Tom Fortin is among those leading the charge on all the appeals. He's also the director of a group called Casino Free Sudbury, which opposes the city's plans to welcome Gateway Casinos to the Kingsway Entertainment District.

Fortin told CBC News that the November meeting is a good sign for those who hold out hope that both the casino and arena project can be stopped.

Since it took a while for the tribunal to assess the appeals, Fortin says he takes that to mean the LPAT thinks there is validity to arguments.

"If [the appeals] ... didn't have a chance or [were] trivial, they would have been dismissed at this stage. They had the opportunity to dismiss them, but they chose to grant validity to all of the appeals," he said.

Fortin said it was never their goal to slow down the process, but rather to stop the project. He added that the timeline for the LPAT decision process also affords them the opportunity for a newly elected city council to possibly make a different decision.

When it comes to the tribunal's decision, Fortin doesn't think there will be much of an opportunity for mediation. He expects the answer to be either the project goes ahead — or it doesn't.

"Under the Planning Act, the city has to abide by the official plan, in regards to our growth and development, and follow the provincial policy statements with our growth and development."

"We feel they've moved away from where they should be," he said.

Developer confident in project

On the other side, Dario Zulich said he's also relieved. He's the developer who owns the land on the Kingsway, upon which city council voted to build the projects.

"We knew it was coming, we were just wondering when," he said. "I'm happy they've actually set down a date to actually look into it a little further and I'm looking forward to getting this over with. I'm still confident in our project and what we've done to date."
Developer Dario Zulich (left,) shown here with Theatre Cambrian president Derek Young, is awaiting the LPAT process outcome to know for sure if his vision of a Kingsway entertainment district can become a reality. (Casey Stranges/CBC)

Zulich says he's unfazed by the tribunal's decision.

"Everything is still moving forward. We are well down the planning process, everything is in order to start, and we'll get over this little bump in the road and away we go," he said.

He added that work planned on the property will continue.

A tender by the city to grade the site closed on Wednesday. The seven bids ranged from $8.5 to $12.5 million.

With files from Benjamin Aubé