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Ontario government ‘stopped’ $18.6M sale of OPG lands in Wesleyville to Port Hope: mayor

The Municipality of Port Hope says an agreement was in place to purchase more than 1,300 acres of land in Wesleyville from the OPG. Municipality of Port Hope video screenshot

The Municipality of Port Hope said the Ontario government has halted the agreed purchase of more than 1,300 acres of land belonging to Ontario Power Generation in Wesleyville.

The municipality said on Friday it received a “last-minute” and “unexpected” change from OPG that the province has “stopped the sale” of the $18.6-million agreement for 1,334 acres of lands across four kilometres of Lake Ontario shoreline.

In February, Port Hope council endorsed the deal which was set to close on March 31, according to the municipality, which was planning to borrow up to $20-million from Infrastructure Ontario through a low-interest loan to facilitate the deal.

Read more: Port Hope seeks public input on waterfront and riverwalk master plan

At the request of Port Hope Mayor Bob Sanderson, the municipality in late 2019 inquired if OPG would be interested in divesting the property commonly known as the Wesleyville Power Generating Station, about 10 kilometres west of the Town of Port Hope.

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The municipality said that in July 2020, discussions were underway on the acquisition and a conditional agreement of purchase was made in June 2021.

The municipality has identified 600 acres of land for potential development including residential, 260 acres of current industrial development and 700 acres of environmentally significant lands. No precise plans have been made for that lands since the municipality said the purchase would be a “long-term investment,” and take “decades” to reach its full potential. Areas of focus include development, environmental protection, cultural assets, and public waterfront access.

Sanderson said the municipality has been left with a lot of unanswered questions.

“I was very surprised by the abrupt change of plans for this land purchase, since the agreement was approved by both parties,” Sanderson said.

“We followed a proper process, signed a binding agreement, and shared the good news story with our community. We are disappointed with this outcome.”

In a statement to Global News Peterborough on Monday afternoon, the OPG said it was engaged in a “robust” commercial sale with the municipality for the property at 2655 Lakeshore Road in Port Hope. However, the OPG says it received correspondence on March 18 from Ross Romano, Minister of Government and Consumer Services, which requested that the transaction be “set aside” due to “emerging provincial land use initiatives and other provincial priorities.”

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The OPG also said on March 25 it received a shareholder directive from Ontario Energy Minister Todd Smith which ordered the OPG to “not proceed with the transaction and directs that the transaction be terminated.”

“The Municipality of Port Hope has now been provided a copy of the shareholder directive and advised that the transaction has been terminated,” the OPG stated.

Sanderson said the OPG’s letter noted that the lands “merit assessment” by the newly proposed Centre of Realty Excellence (CORE) — a program to determine priority under-utilized and/or surplus properties focusing on uses such as long-term care and affordable housing.

“To our knowledge, this proposed program does not yet have a governance model, framework, or timeline for implementation,” the municipality said.

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“We have a binding, unconditional purchase and sale agreement with OPG in place, approved by OPG Board of Directors and Port Hope Council.

“For the past two years, we followed proper process and due diligence to reach the binding agreement. We negotiated a fair deal in good faith.”

The municipality said it has reached out to the province for further details on the mandate of the CORE program.

“We continue to be committed to purchasing the lands and have extended an invitation to the province to work with them through the CORE process. We still believe this is a real opportunity for Port Hope. We are eager to work with the province to find a way to get back on the path we planned together with OPG — a path that council supported unanimously and that is best for Port Hope’s future.”

Northumberland-Peterborough South MPP David Piccini told Global News Peterborough late Monday afternoon that the municipality needs to follow the procedures and policies including CORE to go through with the purchase.

“Keep in mind the municipality was seeking financing from the province to take that land too, so we need to make sure we follow due diligence,” he said.

“We are consistent specifically.  I mean the reason behind this policy decision was that it’s consistent with the policy set out in Bill 84 and the Centre for Realty Excellence.”

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Piccini said he intends to meet with municipal officials Monday evening to discuss the decision by the province and talk about possibly charting a path forward for the eventual purchase of the land in the future.

 

 

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