Chiarelli pushes to make Lansdowne plan work
Councillor seeks colleagues’ support for exclusive talks with developers
College Ward Councillor Rick Chiarelli has crafted a motion that would have the city immediately enter into negotiations with one group of businessmen to redevelop Lansdowne Park.
The motion was drafted Saturday with city staff and Mayor Larry O’Brien, just one day after Minto Group chief executive officer Roger Greenberg, one of the four businessmen who make up the Lansdowne Live group, told the Citizen editorial board he wants a “decision in principle” to support his group’s proposal at Wednesday’s council meeting.
The Minto CEO said he is not prepared to have the city sit on the plan much longer, and needs to know where council stands on the unsolicited proposal, which was made last fall.
Chiarelli stressed that if the motion is carried Monday, it does not mean the Lansdowne Live proposal will be accepted outright; rather, the two sides would immediately dive into a 60-day negotiating period, followed by 21 days of public consultation.
If they do carve out a deal, council will vote on it, followed by another round of consultation.
“It (the motion) is to enter into sole negotiations with Lansdowne Live to see if we can change the business model to something that is mutually agreeable,” said Chiarelli.
He said he told Greenberg about the motion.
“This isn’t exactly what he wants, but I think he is happy with it,” said Chiarelli.
“And certainly happier than with anything else that was coming out of City Hall.”
Given that the land at Lansdowne alone is worth between $75 million and $100 million, Chiarelli said one of the key issues to be addressed is the idea of giving an expensive public asset to someone else to develop without any financial incentive.
“We want to change it (the proposal) so, first of all, there is an income stream to the city, because this is a valuable public asset.”
Chiarelli says this could come in the form of a percentage of rents, a commission on sales, or a ticket surcharge.
“It could be contributions from other levels of government toward the whole thing, it could be any number of things, but that would all be subject to negotiation,” he said.
If the motion is accepted, Chiarelli said the city would also be negotiating a lease longer than the 50-year lease the group proposed — with the city having the option to sell Lansdowne to them or keep it at the end.
River Ward Councillor Maria McRae said she will support the motion because she says the city has a responsibility first and foremost to protect what it already owns.
She stressed that the issue at large is not about whether to choose the Lansdowne Live bid over another bid by Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk to put a stadi- um in Kanata near Scotiabank Place, the home of his NHL club.
She says the city has an obligation to taxpayers to “get that park up to standard.
“It is despicable that we have allowed Frank Clair Stadium to get to a point where we are sinking millions of dollars into it like a black hole and it’s not usable,” said McRae.
“And it’s got nothing to do with whether it’s used for football or soccer or concerts. It has everything to do with the fact that we own an open-air stadium and we have allowed it to rot.”
She said she met with the Lansdowne Live group Thursday, and they presented her with more data that show they can make a rejuvenation of Lansdowne “tax-neutral to the city,” given the city is already pouring millions of dollars into Lansdowne just to keep it in “an unusable form” since the demolition of the south-side seats last July.
She said the group raised the possibly of “satellite parking” options, which will help ease congestion during the 10 home games per season of a potential expansion Canadian Football League franchise.
Orléans Councillor Bob Monette said he will second Chiarelli’s motion on Monday. He also said the city cannot afford to do nothing — leaving taxpayers on the hook for millions for the upkeep of an unused facility — and said he thinks the motion “goes in the right direction.”
“It (the motion) seems to find a middle ground with how we can move ahead with this ... make Lansdowne work and also make it cost effective.”