Council’s vote on Reconsideration of the former Port Hospital at 65 Ward St
At the last council meeting the motion brought forward by councillor Hickey requesting council to reconsider the intent to designate was defeated. A two thirds majority vote was necessary (5 members of council) to pass.
As Mayor, I voted against the reconsideration for very specific reasons. Although my vote was not a deciding vote I have received input both in support and against. I would like to explain the reasons for my vote.
My vote was in support of LTC (Long Term Care)
I am strongly in support of maintaining and expanding our Long Term Care (LTC) facilities in Port Hope. I am also very supportive of Southbridge and their proposal to upgrade their current facilities and the municipality is prepared to work diligently in support of them to do so.
My vote was in support of our Heritage and of 65 Ward St – Port Hope’s former Hospital I am also very supportive of maintaining our heritage including structures. I have personally had 3 properties designated and have independently restored one of the most significant buildings that was considered beyond salvation – “The Little Bluestone House”.
Isn’t it a contradictory statement to say you are supportive of both?
NO – it is not a contradictory statement. I believe we do not need to choose one over the other.
I believe that by working together now that the inappropriate emotional negotiations are at a stalemate that the way is now clear for us to try for a win-win solution going forward. As I clearly stated in the council meeting, Southbridge will continue to care for the residents as well as they have done to date.
Even if a green light to develop and destroy the old hospital was given to Southbridge now, the proposed new facility will take 2 ½ years (as stated by Southbridge).
So let’s be clear, long term care is not in immediate jeopardy in any way whereas the historic “Old” Hospital would be in immediate jeopardy if the reconsideration motion had passed.
Going forward we need to take a business like and rational approach to supporting Southbridge request to upgrade their facility in Port Hope and we need to work together with them to explore all options. Options include looking at every option including different designs for the current site and considering alternate locations. This process is essential to making the correct decision before we rashly lose such a significant building. Losing the building may occur and if that is the final outcome, at least make sure we have done our due diligence and it is the “last” option.
It is now time to roll up our sleeves and work with Southbridge in a business like fashion and put the emotional arguments to the side. The emotional positioning of both parties has caused undue anxiety to the residents and staff of Hope Terrace and the residents of Port Hope and that is something I feel was inappropriate and it must stop.
The “motion to reconsider”
I believe that bringing forward a motion to reconsider on such an important and emotional issue when you absolutely know do not have the support of council was a disservice to everyone in this community but especially to the staff and residents of the long term care. It could appear that bringing the motion forward knowing it would not be supported was politically motivated for personal political gain with no regard for the consequences to others. That is neither leadership no governance.
Regarding False Information Circulating re Southbridge being told they’d have “no problems” demolishing 65 Ward St
The short answers are that I have never indicated that there would be “no problem” for Southbridge and I do not believe anyone else had indicated that to them either.
There have been no closed sessions with Southbridge and all meetings have been documented.
My first introduction with Soutbridge’s proposed upgrade to their LTC facility was when there was a question posed to our building department regarding the requirements to get a permit for demolishing the Old Hospital. Our Heritage committee and ACO were active in following up and Southbridge then presented their proposal to our heritage Committee. It was very clear from the comments made by the members of the committee that the old Hospital at 65 Ward St. was of major concern to them and they would not support demolishing the building.
After that meeting it was suggested that Southbridge should be directing their proposal to our development team as that was the appropriate process and that the Heritage committee would then be consulted as is normal in the circumstances. It was also indicated that a site plan application would be needed and Southbridge indicated they did not want to go to that expense if the building was going to be designated and further, if the building was going to be designated they would not proceed with their plan at that location. Southbridge was also clear from the start that they would not proceed if the building was designated.
The rest is “history” as they say but to be clear, I have never said to Southbridge that there would be “no problem” for them to move forward but rather it has been clear from the very start that there would be opposition to demolishing the building. I have always indicated to them that it is up to council to make that decision. There have been no closed meetings with Southbridge but I have had dialog with their CEO Keith Macintosh to encourage them to work with the municipality to find the win – win solution. The win – win for me would be to have them build on a more suitable site and that would allow the potential re-purpose of the building.
It is obvious to anyone that no Mayor has any power or authority to give any assurance to any developer on behalf of council. From the start, I have clearly indicated that I am very supportive of having Southbridge upgrade their LTC facilities whether it be on that site or elsewhere.
I know this is a longer answer perhaps than needed but it is important to understand there is a clear and identified process for Southbridge or any other developer to move a project forward.
Southbridge has unfortunately tried to interfere with our municipal election and it would appear that it is an attempt to circumvent our processes. I think this is extremely unfortunate and does not show respect for our community or our values.
Once the election is over it is my hope that Southbridge will work with council and our community in a constructive and professional manner. I look forward to the opportunity to assist Southbridge and any other OTC provider to establish expanded LTC facilities in our community.