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City Weighs in on Ottawa Senators Arena Negotiations

RendezVous LeBreton, Ottawa

With discussions over a proposed Ottawa Senators arena in the LeBreton Flats district unfolding, City of Ottawa officials are presenting some of their desires for the project. 

In its pitch for redevelopment of LeBreton Flats, RendezVous LeBreton–a group backed by the Senators–is proposing a new arena as part of a larger development concept. Negotiations for land acquisition between the group and the National Capital Commission continue to unfold. Though it is not a direct party in that negotiation process, Ottawa is presenting some of the provisions that it wants to see implemented in the agreement.

The key for Ottawa officials appears to be minimizing the cost to municipal taxpayers. There are several components to that objective, with one of the sticking points being environmental cleanup. The district pitched for redevelopment was once an area that included heavy industry, and it is anticipation that the land will require extensive environmental cleanup for the project to move forward. The city has its own brownfields remediation program, but is concerned that it cannot afford to cover the cost, and is looking for the federal government to take responsibility for this portion of the plan. More from The Ottawa Citizen:

John Ruddy, the head of Trinity Development Group and the Senators’ major partner in the LeBreton plans, has said the consortium expected to seek government money under general-purpose programs, like the one for brownfields.

But, in this case, the cost of the cleanup of a district that used to have scrapyards, railyards and other heavy industry mixed in with working-class homes is estimated at $170 million, a bank-breaking number for a program that usually deals in single-digit millions, at most.

The NCC evicted everyone more than 50 years ago for an office complex it never built.

“Given the historic decision of the federal government to acquire and demolish the LeBreton Flats community in the early 1960s, it is the city’s position that the federal government should be solely responsible for remediating its property prior to development,” the new city document says.

Ottawa’s latest guidelines for the proposal come before a key discussion, as the city council’s finance and economic development committee is to consider the plan at a meeting on November 7. According to a memo drafted by city manager Steve Kanellakos, officials are hoping that the committee will approves its recommendations for the plan. More from CBC:

City staff want the city’s finance and economic development committee and council to sign off on some recommended principles for the city’s participation in negotiations, including that the city taxpayer “must be protected.”

Should the Sens-backed group propose to get help in funding its arena and development, the city would need to do due diligence to ensure taxpayers are protected, staff wrote.

Any liability the city agrees to take on would also “need to be secured by assets or a mechanism to recover the costs from the benefiting area,” staff wrote. Council would get a chance to consider the results of that due diligence if any recommendation is brought forward as part of an agreement on a deal or other application to the city.

Along with the arena, the project features other amenities, including a french-language public school and housing units. The Senators currently play at the Canadian Tire Centre, which opened in 1996.

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