Residents express outrage at first Lansdowne forum

Residents expressed their outrage Monday towards a proposed redevelopment plan for Lansdowne Park, which Capital Ward Coun. Clive Doucet called “illegal” at the city’s first public consultation on the controversial project.

“We’re not saying goodbye to our oldest park,” said Doucet, insisting that the city needs “to  develop a good plan that everyone can get behind.”

The public meeting at Lansdowne Park was the first of six the city is holding across Ottawa to get feedback on the Lansdowne Partnership Plan, presented to council on Sept. 2 by the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group.

The proposed project would be cost-shared between the City of Ottawa and OSEG, each paying $125 million for phase one of the redevelopment. The plan calls for a retail component, revamped green space, renovations to the stadium and arena and an underground parking lot, all scheduled for completion by the summer of 2013.

The City of Ottawa put the design competition for redeveloping Lansdowne on hold when OSEG stepped up with its proposal. But several critics, including Doucet, said it’s illegal to sole-source the project without a design contest.w

“We’ve already spent more on this unsolicited offer than we would have spent on an entire competition,” he said. “We’re going to end up in court anyway, because it’s illegal in most places.”

However, Graham Bird, the development consultant overseeing the project for the city, said the plan is not only legally sound, but will also involve a lot of public input.

“There’s been lots of legal and fairness commission opinions on this and all are quite comfortable with the process that has been taken on,” he said. “The process will involve everybody, right down to the details and how it all sits.”

Some residents, on the other hand, said they feel left out of the proposal.

“The whole project is appalling,” said June Creelman, chair of the Lansdowne committee for the Glebe Community Association. “The way the whole thing has been done, canceling the competition, having backroom deals, we feel totally left out of the process.”

The public input from the consultation meetings will be sorted out and brought forward to council on Nov. 12, said Bird.

But despite the opportunity to give feedback, Creelman and other residents said they are still unhappy with the process.

“If you don’t have anything to compare, how do you know it’s the best idea? Right now it’s a take it or leave it type option,” she said. “We do think common sense might prevail as soon as people get into the details of the plan.”

Doucet said he hopes these consultations will bring to light the major flaws with the project and planning process.

“I hope the message to the developers and to the city will be very clear,” he said.

Creelman said what she’s worried about most is public money being spent on something the public really had little choice in.

“Everybody’s tax dollars are going into this project,” she said. “It involves everyone in the city.”