Pro-KED petition, meanwhile, was launched this week
Those opposing the Kingsway Entertainment District continue to fight back against a project they deem irresponsible, unsustainable and inaccessible. Now they are seeking help from residents living across the city.
A self-professed “passionate advocate of Sudbury’s future,” Patrick Crowe launched an online petition several weeks ago (there are also paper copies in circulation), which aims to disrupt the momentum of the KED. He told The Star earlier this month the project is not a good use of public money.
“We have to look at how our cities are planned and designed, with respect to the environment,” he said, noting the preservation of the environment should be a global priority. “The idea of building a new arena on the outskirts of town, where the highway peters out on a road to nowhere — and next to an actively functioning municipal landfill site — is so absurd and so obviously not in the interests of the city.”
Crowe said the KED is “so patently the wrong thing to do for our city,” and in the interests of a small group of people who are interested in benefitting themselves “and purporting to be philanthropists. It is so cynical and hypocritical. It is insulting to the taxpayers of this city.”
Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland signed the petition, indicating he wants an events centre he believes is more accessible and environmentally friendly.
“I care about the future of our city, and want our community gathering place to be green, accessible and not contributing to sprawl,” he wrote on the petition.
Bill Crumplin, a retired professor from Laurentian University who previously ran for mayor and as the Green Party candidate in the Sudbury riding, also indicated his preference for a downtown locale.
“The KED will not be successful, just like every other arena that is not centrally located,” Crumplin prophesied.
One gentleman indicated the KED is not prudent in a post-pandemic world, while communities are still reeling financially and picking up the pieces of the COVID-19 storm.
“It’s decisions like the KED that make me not want to move back to Sudbury, and why many of my friends have already left or are going to leave Sudbury for better cities,” Guy Godin wrote. “This decision will do nothing but raise taxes even further for a city that isn’t growing, with crumbling infrastructure. I want to be in a city that respects risk mitigation, due diligence and proper return on quality of life per every tax dollar spent. The KED is fiscally irresponsible during a time where the world is still getting back on its feet from a pandemic, many people are still jobless (and) Laurentian is insolvent.”
Crowe said he decided to launch the petition now because he was waiting to see how council would respond to the PricewaterhouseCoopers report. Proponents of a downtown arena argued the report, ordered in February, lacked or overlooked essential information requested by council; skewed job numbers; and misrepresented the potential benefits of the KED. They argued the report was written to favour The Kingsway.
“We have to stand up against bad decisions that will affect our community for a long time,” he said. “To my knowledge, citizens have never been consulted in a way that could justify anyone saying this in our best interests.”
To date, more than 2,300 people have signed the petition (available at tinyurl.com/6tj44txy), which calls for a renovation of the current barn on Elgin Street. Crowe indicated all roads lead to the core, making it more accessible to the majority of the population, especially those without vehicles.
“Adjacent to the public transit hub, this new complex will accelerate the urban renaissance of Sudbury’s downtown as evidenced by the new Place des Arts, the Laurentian University McEwen School of Architecture, the YMCA, Tom Davies Square, the Ontario government buildings, as well as the many restaurants, bars and patios, hotels, theatres and shops currently operating downtown,” Crowe wrote on change.org.
“In demanding a downtown location, we strongly reject the misguided scheme proposing a new arena be built far away from the city centre, adjacent to the municipal dump, on unserviced land at the far end of The Kingsway, where only one road leads, accessible to automobiles only, while requiring additional public investment in hydro, municipal water and sewage, traffic control, roads and street lighting.”
Crowe also pointed out there is no guarantee Gateway will establish a casino at the KED. The company has borrowed $200 million from the federal government to support its operations through COVID-19 and must pay that back before they can expand.
“The promoters of the KED imagine they can seduce the public with promises of casinos and hotels, none of which are necessarily in the public interest nor is there any guarantee they will actually be built,” he indicated. “We emphatically urge the council of the City of Greater Sudbury to reject this scheme. If council cannot be convinced by ours and many other voices rejecting the KED in favour of a downtown arena, it can respect all opposing views on this consequentially important project by submitting the decision to a binding referendum so the voters themselves can determine how their tax dollars will be spent.”
At least one signatory to the petition took aim at Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan and questioned the math the councillor has used in his assessment of the KED. He also criticized the number of jobs that will reportedly be created.
“I am hopeful this ill-conceived idea that has not worked in a single Canadian/American city is not allowed to progress to the point of draining the city of both vibrancy and tax dollars,” Matt Binks wrote. “Kirwan et al. must not be allowed to ram this through using dubious statistics and poorly researched reports (1,000 film studio jobs indeed … laughable).”
Arthur Peach, a well known local architect, and Hazel Ecclestone have been working with Crowe to raise awareness about the petition and to ring the alarm bells about the KED.
Peach calls The Kingsway location “a terribly ruinous, calamitous, catastrophic choice” for a community gathering spot.
“The KED must be cancelled, period. If it goes ahead I see a further steady decline in the viability and attractiveness of the downtown and the merchants therein,” Peach told The Star. “A master plan of the neighbourhood and its relation to the rest of the outlying communities must be undertaken, by credible northern architects, engineers, planners and ordinary residents who don’t have secret agendas, and/or conflicts of interest and/or who will gain commercially and/or personally from the spoils, if any, of the KED.”
While it is late in the game, Peach said those opposing the KED will continue to campaign against the project. Like Crowe, Peach said the whole scheme was designed to benefit a small group of individuals at the expense of taxpayers.
“It all comes down to the aspirations of one prominent developer who has an acreage of subdivided industrial zoned land by the dump on the outskirts of Sudbury, which, over the years, has not attracted much in the way of lease or sales of the properties. The developer apparently wants and/or needs an idea that will help sales — voila, he comes up with the brilliant KED, at the same time it will provide a shiny new home for his hockey and basketball teams, and maybe a private box for all his supporters who’ve sold their souls to him over the years.
“Then, another brilliant idea — why not get city taxpayers to pay for everything and put us more in debt for at least the next 30-plus years,” Peach said. “The future economic, social and health reputations of our city are at stake. Council’s having taken the bait of this fraud, they seem to be married to it and have taken the rigid position that any words against the KED are shut down and shut out, even to the extent of the attempted silencing of those councillors who speak out for responsible city-building.”
Ecclestone said the KED is at odds with the climate emergency council declared in 2019.
“Our city has a prior commitment to the international climate emergency. This is not fashion; this is serious. The west has reached record high temperatures this summer and is burning out of control,” she noted. “When are we going to get serious about working towards sustainable, smart urban design that holds the environment as the highest priority? It is a great opportunity to finally feed the revitalization of the downtown. We have been talking about it for years.
“Sudbury has huge potential to be somewhere that people want to go. It has a very interesting, intriguing history. We need to stop exploiting it for the business interests of a few and start creating a place that attracts our children and people from away to want to stay and make a life for themselves. The walkability of any vibrant town is paramount to achieving all of the above.”
Ecclestone said if council chooses to continue with the KED, it needs to be transparent regarding contracts that have been signed “and then allow the citizens full consultation with full disclosure on how very large sums of the public purse are to be distributed.”
A retaliatory, pro-KED petition was launched earlier this week. The author of the petition, Scott Seguin, addressed his oeuvre to Tom Price and crownies (presumably he meant cronies), Crowe, as well as “anyone else who wants to try to railroad and hold up this project.”
Seguin wrote that residents are fed up with the delays and he urged those who oppose the KED to “grow up” and accept the defeat.
“We the people of Sudbury are fed up with this project being put on hold and being held up by you and your fellow people who have nothing better to do with your time,” he wrote. “We want change. We want the KED. We don’t want to go downtown for an event centre for many reasons. We want the KED. Stop with the frivolous lawsuits; you’ve already lost. Stop with the petitions. Stop with demanding a referendum. The decision has been made, give up now and grow up. Accept the loss.”
To date, 120 people have signed the pro-KED petition, which is available at tinyurl.com/uw2d97w5.