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Hearings into Sudbury entertainment district project slated for 2020

But Gateway says it is 'absolutely' committed to building a new casino in Sudbury
An artist's representation of the Kingsway Entertainment District project in Sudbury. (File)

It was a win/lose day for the parties battling over the Kingsway Entertainment District (KED), who clashed at a case management conference at Sudbury's Tom Davies Square on Aug. 8.

Members of the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT) set May 5, 2020, as the date to hear the actual appeals, a much longer wait than KED supporters were hoping for – and one that brings Gateway Casinos past the expiration date of their lease at Sudbury Downs. The hearing will last four days, and will be held in Sudbury.

But the LPAT also rejected arguments from Kingsway opponents who wanted the tribunal to halt its work entirely and wait until the Superior Court rules on a separate motion to quash the approval of the KED.

That decision was important because the provincial government is bringing in new planning rules – Bill 108 – that is expected to be proclaimed law soon. Hearings scheduled before Bill 108 comes into effect will proceed under the old LPAT rules. 

If the tribunal had delayed setting a date, the KED could have been heard under Bill 108, which would mean the entire appeals process would practically restart.

David Shelsted, the city manager in charge of developing the Kingsway project, said the city was glad a date for the hearing was finally set, but waiting another 10 months was a surprise. 

“We were hoping it would be sooner,” Shelsted said. 

Rob Mitchell, a spokesperson for Gateway Casinos, said he hadn't had a chance yet to confer with the legal team representing them at the tribunal. While he couldn't comment on what the May 2020 date for the hearing meant for the casino's continued involvement in the KED, he reiterated the company is “absolutely” committed to building a new casino in Greater Sudbury, one way or another.

“We still hold out a great deal of hope and optimism that we will be able to move forward with the project as intended (on the Kingsway),” Mitchell said. “That's our hope right now, but at this juncture, I'll need to take this back and caucus with our legal folks to get a sense of what the implications of this will be, in terms of pushing it out for another 10 months.”

“But certainly, we have made a commitment to the city and we very much want to fulfill that commitment.”

The battle over the Kingsway project – which includes a new arena, casino and hotel to be built in the east end of the city – formally began last spring following city council approval of the project. 

Sudbury businessman Tom Fortin, of, told last week he is moving ahead with a separate action in Superior Court to stop the project, based on arguments city council was biased (or fettered) when it approved the KED.

Fortin is handling the Superior Court motion on his own, unlike the KED appeals, where he is joined by the Downtown BIA and local clergyman Christopher Duncanson-Hales.

The biased-decision arguments were part of the original appeal to the LPAT, but an earlier ruling by the tribunal said the issue wasn't a planning matter, and should be heard by another court.

Lawyer Gordon Petch, who represents Fortin, the BIA and Duncanson-Hales at the LPAT, is handling Fortin's court motion.

He had offered to support an expedited (accelerated) court process if all the parties agreed to suspend the Aug. 8 case management conference until there's a ruling from the Superior Court.

Even though the LPAT rejected that idea, Petch said afterwards they will still be seeking an expedited hearing. While some people may think they are trying to delay the process, he said that's not the case.

“We want it to be over,” Petch said. “We're tired of it all.” 

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