Nearly seven years after the tragic collapse of the roof of the former Algo Centre Mall, Elliot Lake city council has approved the city's purchase of the land it sat on. Part of the property will later be sold back to the developer the city purchased it from once the land is rezoned.
During an emotional 35-minute special council meeting late in the afternoon of April 16, Elliot Lake council members approved the purchase of the 13-acre site from a numbered company that bought the land earlier this month.
The purchase of the land, located behind Elliot Lake City Hall, for some $900,000 passed on a narrow 4-3 vote. Those in favour included Mayor Dan Marchisella, Councillors Ed Pearce, Tom Turner and Deputy Mayor Luc Cyr. Those against were Councillors Sandy Finamore, Norman Mann and Chris Patrie.
The land will be rezoned, with the City of Elliot Lake retaining seven acres once it buys the entire site from the numbered company.
After that is accomplished, Elliot Lake will resell five acres of the rezoned land back to the same numbered company for $150,000.
The resale is conditional on a covenant that would bind the proponent to build a residential and commercial project on the land over a set period of time.
The elephant in the room during the meeting was the city's purpose in buying the land.
Marchisella said, after considering 11 possible sites that could be used as a home for the long-sought Elliot Lake Community Hub, the former Algo Centre Mall is the closest to being "shovel-ready."
Elliot Lake CAO Daniel Gagnon told council members the bylaw they later passed to approve the land transaction means the deal should close by the middle of next week.
The land was cleared of the mall's remains and left vacant in the wake of the June 23, 2012 incident that killed Doloris Perizzolo, 74, and Lucie Aylwin, 37, and injured others.
At the conclusion of a provincial inquiry into the incident, Justice Paul R. Bélanger attributed the collapse to "human failure."
Former engineer Robert Wood, whose licence had been suspended by the Professional Engineers of Ontario in 2011 and later revoked, conducted the last inspection of the roof before its collapse. He was charged in 2014 with two counts of criminal negligence causing death and a single count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.
He was found not guilty of all three charges at the conclusion of his Superior Court trial on June 1, 2017.