Windsor councillor, business people fight back over hospital debate
Published Tuesday, May 21, 2019 7:13PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 22, 2019 9:37AM EDT
Business people and some council members in Windsor are pushing back after a bold statement from Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens.
On Friday, Dilkens and Essex County Warden Gary McNamara gathered the so-called "silent majority" – people who support the proposed site of the new acute care hospital on County Road 42.
The mayor also called out fellow council members for their code of conduct, and threatened to pull funding from a handful of business improvement associations over their support of an appeal against the city and the mega-hospital location.
The Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association (DWBIA) spent $5,000 to support an appeal against the city’s zoning decision launched by Citizens for an Accountable MegaHospital Planning Process (CAMPP).
“We do not want to see the hospital, the ancillary services move from the downtown core,” says DWBIA vice chair Pat Papadeas.
A city report going before council next Monday singles out the DWBIA as well the Ford City, Wyandotte, Erie Street business improvement associations for their pledged financial support for the appeal.
Council could decide to hold back BIA funding, arguing their support is outside of their mandate.
“The Municipal Act clearly enunciates what BIA’s can do, what their roles and responsibilities are,” said Dilkens. “Funding and taking taxpayers dollars from their members to fund a third party appeal of a city decision is clearly outside the scope of what a BIA can do."
But Papadeas says the rules of the BIA are not clear in the Municipal Act.
“We haven't seen it, we've received our own legal opinion,” says Papadeas. “We've thoroughly looked at the case law, the jurisprudence, the policy statement, everything we do and have done is in line."
"I foresee that pledge standing because I foresee that council will be, when they look at what is in front of them, will make the right decision," Papadeas says. "That is to allow the process, and to allow the respect for the BIAs, and the membership of the BIA to control how their money is spent."
"This is the member’s money, by a tax levy. The city is the bank for that. I hope I don’t have to answer that question because I’m very hopeful we have a city council that can see through what is happening," Papadeas adds.
But the Ford City BIA has confirmed to CTV News it will not pledge $250 that its board was contemplating.
The board of the Wyandotte Town Centre BIA is in the process of electing a chair and is not commenting on its $1,000 pledge to CAMPP.
The Erie Street BIA did not respond regarding its $2,500 pledge.
Mayor Dilkens also believes the crusade was spearheaded by two members of council -- Chris Holt and Rino Bortolin – both whom voted against the rezoning.
“To the extent you have members of council soliciting funds to fund an appeal against an approved zoning project by the City of Windsor, I would suspect someone should be looking at the code of conduct to say does that violate the rules we have established for ourselves,” stated Dilkens on Friday.
Bortolin flatly denies ever influencing the BIA’s.
“Obviously, everything you saw on Friday was political theatrics,” says Bortolin. “This is simply just a way to push, intimidate and bully and it's unacceptable."
Bortolin tells CTV Windsor he accepts council's decision on the hospital site but also the decisions of democratically elected boards who decided to support the appeal by CAMPP.
“We've allowed BIA’s to spend money on these sorts of issues before,” notes Bortolin. “This is obviously a political axe to grind, and this is something that's unfortunate that this is how we talk to our BIA’s and how we communicate with our BIA’s.”
A date has not been set yet for the full oral hearing before the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) for the location of the new mega-hospital.