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New Sudbury arena project gets its day at provincial planning tribunal

Two days scheduled this week for LPAT hearing on the Kingsway Entertainment District

A final resolution over the planning and site selection of Sudbury's controversial arena project could be in sight.

Ontario's Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT) will reconvene on the Kingsway Entertainment District (KED) matter this week.

The hearing of the LPAT appeals will be conducted as an audio conference hearing on Sept. 17 and 18, starting at 10 a.m. both days. The hearing is expected to take one day with the second day held as a precaution.

Standing in support of the Kingsway Entertainment District are Sudbury Wolves owner, and project proponent, Dario Zulich and Gateway Casinos.

In oppositon are local businessman Tom Fortin of Casino Free Sudbury, Laurentian University professor Christopher Duncanson-Hales, activist Steve May, and the downtown Sudbury Business Improvement Association.

The opposing groups are fighting to stop the casino from being built on the site, as well as city council's decision to move the arena from downtown Sudbury to the Kingsway. 

The LPAT is an adjudicative tribunal that hears cases in relation to a range of land-use matters, heritage conservation and municipal governance. It's a new appeals body for planning decisions, taking over for the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in January 2018. 

Unlike the OMB, LPATs will review a city council's decision to see if it conforms to local and provincial planning rules, rather than start the process from scratch.

The Kingsway Entertainment District is a proposed $100-million arena and event centre development on the eastern outskirts of the city, close to Sudbury's heavily trafficked big box shopping area at The Kingsway and Falconbridge Road. 

It would be the city's main arena. The Sudbury Wolves Ontario Hockey League franchise would be the main tenant. 

The proposed 6,500-seat arena would replace the 5,800-seat downtown Sudbury Community Arena, built in 1951.

The entertainment complex on the 69-hectare site would include restaurants, a hotel, and upscaled casino, replacing the current Slots at Sudbury Downs opened in 1999 at the former harness racing track in Chelmsford.

The appeals process that got underway more than two years ago has hit its share of snags from the early stages beginning with a November 2018 case management conference where there was disagreement between the city and the appellants over what issues could be addressed at the full LPAT hearing stage.

Among the issues raised, and ultimately rejected, was the appellants' call for a community referendum on the project, particularly over the city's approval of the casino portion of the proposed development. It was determined to be beyond the scope of the LPAT.

- with files from Matt Durnan,