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Mega-Hospital Decision Not Over Until It’s Over

Mega-Hospital Decision Not Over Until It’s Over

Photo: Philippa von Ziegenweidt: sprawl mega-hospital foe. Photo courtesy of Howard Weeks.

Mega-Hospital Decision Not Over Until It’s Over

August 13-14, 2018. Mark it down in your diary. The momentous decision made by Windsor City Council that night (or more accurately early morning) could well reverberate negatively on our city for eons to come.
It was a record setting marathon mega meeting, ending at the ungodly hour of 2:42 a.m. that gave the green light to a $2 billion mega-hospital that looms as a mega mistake.

Council’s rezoning approval, with an 8-2 vote, despite vigorous protests of some 60 delegations, underscored Windsor’s pattern of chasing urban sprawl to the detriment of the downtown core.

Richard Peddie, the brilliant former CEO of Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment and a University of Windsor grad who now lives on Boblo Island, was not in attendance at the nine hour meeting, but he has capsulized a lot of citizen chagrin on social media.

The decision, he tweeted, “will add to the hollowing out of Windsor when it could be an investment that would add to the liveability of the downtown core . . . a decision that will hurt Windsor forever.”

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, Windsor Regional Hospital kingpin David Musyj and former MPP turned mega hospital super hero Dave Cooke, would like us to believe it’s a done deal now that the city has agreed to the rezoning and to contribute a one percent levy, or $108 million over 14 years, for construction of the single-site acute care hospital which could leave the core bereft of 24 hour emergency hospital services.

Acute care will be lost at Windsor Regional’s Met Campus and Ouellette Campus (formerly Hotel Dieu) which are headed for the wrecking ball, as are the $18 million Cancer Centre at Met, built in 2005, and the $1.6 million Ronald McDonald House, just opened in 2016.

But wait! At this writing, a resolute band of opponents has vowed to appeal the decision to the province’s Land Use Planning Appeals Tribunal. The appellants, led by Citizens for an Accountable Megahospital Planning Process (CAMPP), will empty the tool kit to discredit the proposed location at County Road 42 and Concession 9, a stone’s throw on the Windsor side of the Tecumseh border.

Philippa von Ziegenweidt is the fearless leader of CAMPP who has absorbed belittling social media language and name calling from people in positions of power.

In my books, von Ziegenweidt has drawn ire because she hits a lot of nails on the head in a 50 page report she authored over the summer to debunk a sleep-inducing 522 page report, plus appendices, from the city’s planning department.

In recommending approval of the rezoning amendment for the Sandwich South Secondary Plan and hospital land rezoning, City Planner Thom Hunt agreed with Musyj’s high-priced Toronto lawyers and planning consultants that the plan met all requirements of the city’s Official Plan and the Ontario Planning Policy.

Von Ziegenweidt, a physician’s wife with an accounting background who is doing all of her advocacy for free, concludes that the city’s rationale for paving over farmland next to an airport is “shockingly and wildly inaccurate” relying on decade-old reports to create an overly optimistic population and job growth scenario.

The city has coveted the development of 400 hectares of farmland since it was annexed from Essex County in 2003.

The secondary plan, approved in August, calls for commercial and residential development on the property, as well as the mega-hospital as the anchor.

Von Ziegenweidt and others discredit the city’s long-term estimate that new houses will be needed for 7,134 people through 2036 and space for 6,880 new jobs.

Stephen Kapusta, who worked for the city for nearly 10 years from 2001 to 2011 as a transportation planner and planning policy expert, made a submission to CAMPP that reinforces von Ziegenweidt’s view that the city’s population and jobs projections for 20 years and beyond, are not rooted in reality.

“Any population projection over five years is pie in the sky,” Kapusta told me. Kapusta is supportive of the secondary plan, minus the proposed hospital.

The city is trying to justify the spending of mega millions on infrastructure, over and above the mega-hospital construction costs, to develop the fallow and unserviced 400 hectares. It is estimated that Windsor taxpayers will be on the hook for some $220 million of that portion. The city and county will also be responsible for $236 million for furniture and equipment.

City Council recently jacked up its development charges in a move to have developers pay for farmland growth, but it could actually backfire. Facing charges four times the rates of Tecumseh, developers of residential subdivisions may chose to build across the shared border in Tecumseh, and the anticipated cost recovery for Windsor taxpayers would disappear.

The city’s plan is fatally flawed because it is utterly devoid of any economic impact analysis on the downtown. Windsor Regional Hospital is the city’s second highest employer next to Fiat Chrysler.
The existing acute care hospitals employ nearly 4,000 workers, not including some 400 physicians.

Most of these high-paid jobs and physician clinics would naturally migrate, along with their taxes, to live and do business in the sprawl area on the border of Essex County, creating a donut. If you think downtown is barren now, wait until the mega-hospital moves out, one prominent commercial real estate agent told me.

The city recently identified 700 vacant properties, and the sprawl move would kneecap the city’s Community Improvement Plan (CIP) for the downtown area.

Another fly in the ointment could be the lack of consultation with the Aboriginal communities in the region. The Ontario Planning Policy and Windsor’s Official Plan specify that consultation with First Nations take place as part of a development application.

The Appeals Tribunal will have to determine if one email to the regional First Nations inviting them to a stakeholder meeting they didn’t attend, constitutes legitimate consultation. A precedent could possibly be a federal judge’s recent ruling that halted the construction of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline.

If the Tribunal finds fault with the city’s process and plan, it can kick it back to Council. The review timeline will extend well beyond the October 22 municipal election, and perhaps a political power shift could see at least six of 11 Councillors reverse the decision next year.

Core city residents can only hope.