Opposition

Although opposed to the OSEG plan, most opponents are not against redevelopment of the Lansdowne Park site per se. The site is considered to be in poor condition, for the amount of asphalt, and condition of the buildings, as well as other aspects. Opposition to the OSEG plan can be summarized with the following points:

  • opposition to the sole-source nature of the plan
  • opposition to the building of retail and commercial space controlled by a private developer on City-owned lands
  • scale of the retail and residential components
  • concerns about heritage aspects of the site
  • cost of the project
  • building on the Sylvia Holden Park lands

Most opposition comes from residents and businesses of the Glebe neighbourhood, but not exclusively. City Council members from surrounding wards also have voted against the OSEG plan. A survey of businesses in the Glebe area showed that they were concerned about the amount of retail development and the possible negative affects on their businesses.

Glebe Community Association

In October 2009, the local Glebe Community Association demanded that the City of Ottawa go back to the drawing board. An Association vote for a “fair, open and competitive approach” to developing Lansdowne Park was unanimously endorsed. A competitive process would require the city to end its consideration of the Lansdowne Live project and invite new bids to redevelop the park.

Glebe resident Ian Lee, who runs the MBA program at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, has been an outspoken critic of the cost of the project. The plan approved by Ottawa says rebuilding Frank Clair Stadium, constructing underground parking, developing an urban park and relocating trade show space will cost $172.8 million, a number disputed by Lee, “Capital projects have a very bad habit of having major costs overruns.” He predicts, the total cost will be “north of $300 million.” The City had its auditor-general review the business plan who concluded that the plans’ financial assumptions “are reasonable and present a realistic expectation for the future.” However, Lee contends that the auditor-general should have remained neutral and uninvolved, and subsequently he filed a complaint with the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants.

The Association agreed to the mediated settlement with the city in April 2011.

Heritage groups

Plans to move the Horticultural building were opposed by the Heritage Canada Foundation, which put Lansdowne Park on its top ten list of “endangered heritage” locations after a nomination by the Glebe Community Association.In the OSEG and urban park proposal, the Horticultural building, a building of architectural interest, would be moved a short distance east to make room for the OSEG quadrant. According to the City’s solicitor, the City has the power to move the Horticulture Building without outside consent. A hearing was held to hear the debate on the moving of the building. The heritage board rejected the move of the building, although its decision is not binding on the City of Ottawa. However, due to the decision, the City has to rescind the heritage designation of the building in order to move it legally. It may then apply the heritage designation again in the future, after it has been moved.

Heritage advocates planned to fight on and planned to appeal to the Ontario government to stop the move of the Horticultural Building. On November 4, 2010, the City’s Built Heritage Advisory Committee, a group of Ottawa citizens appointed by City Council to advise it on heritage matters, met and discussed the Heritage Impact Study of the Partnership Plan. The committee disliked the move of the Horticultural Building and recommended unanimously against the move.

Friends of Lansdowne Park

The Friends of Lansdowne Park was launched in July 2009 to advocate against the Lansdowne Live proposal. Although the Friends did not launch a counter-proposal, the Friends advocated for a revitalization of Lansdowne Park based on principles developed through a process involving “significant and meaningful public consultation, a fair, open design competition to revitalize Lansdowne Park – like the one Council interrupted” and “a sustainable design.” The group has approximately 50 volunteers, and support across Ottawa, according to Doug Ward.

A court challenge was launched by Gary Sealey, Doug Ward, and the “Friends of Lansdowne” in September 2010, seeking to overturn the partnership plan on the grounds that city rules were not followed in the sole-source process. According to the City of Ottawa, the legality of the process was reviewed by third-party lawyers before the June 28 Council meeting.The group hired Steven Shrybman, a partner at Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP. Doug Ward described the hiring of Shrybman: “That’s why there has been a large fundraising campaign … because we wanted to get the best. And we have the best.” In motions to the court, the group has requested copies of all City files related to the case and that in the event that the suit loses, the group will not have to pay the City and OSEG’s legal costs.The challenge went to trial on June 21, 2011.The judge rendered a verdict rejecting the challenge on all counts on July 28, 2011. The group announced on August 17, 2011, that they would file an appeal to the court “that the Superior Court allowed Ottawa’s City Council far too much latitude in regard to restrictions set out in provincial law concerning competitive procurement, the use of tax dollars to assist commercial entities and the requirement that it put the public interest first.”

The Court ruled on April 30, 2012 to dismiss the Friends’ appeal. The Court ruled the Superior Court interpreted the Municipal Act correctly, that no illegal bonus or procurement was conferred, the City of Ottawa did not contravene its own practices and the implementing by-law was passed in good faith. The Appeals Court noted that by-laws cannot be overturned on their “reasonableness or unreasonableness” but their legality under the Act.

 

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