It has been brought to my attention that some people are saying that I had given assurances to Southbridge that there would be no problem with them demolishing 65 Ward St. This rumour is not true.
The short answers are
- 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.