Province decision to stop $18.6M sale of OPG lands is final: Port Hope

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The Municipality of Port Hope is still searching for answers after the province struck down a major land acquisition deal in the 11th hour. The municipality says the province has told it that the abrupt stoppage of the sale is final. Mark Giunta reports – May 5, 2022

According to the Municipality of Port Hope, the Ontario government’s decision to stop its $18.6 million land acquisition from Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is final.

The deal for 1,334 acres of lands across four kilometres of Lake Ontario shoreline in Wesleyville was to close on March 31.

But the province stepped in to halt the sale citing the municipality didn’t follow procedures through its newly proposed Centre of Realty Excellence (CORE) program, which determines priority under-utilized and/or surplus properties focusing on uses such as long-term care and affordable housing.

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

“I do reject that.  The legislation isn’t in place and it doesn’t even have a framework at this point in time.  I really don’t hang my hat on CORE.  Other processes and surplus sales have occurred, and are occurring without CORE,” said mayor Bob Sanderson.

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“I also go back that we certainly offered to work with the government to work on CORE.  As an example, we could’ve closed the sale and you could’ve put all your parameters of CORE around and tell us and anyone else what could’ve been done better.  The other option was if we couldn’t close at that time, is do the same thing but extend the closure time.”

Sanderson called the move by the province ‘inappropriate’.

“Mayors from across the (Northumberland) County and beyond have reached out to me to share their shock and dismay at the province’s heavy-handed approach and treatment of a small municipality.”

Following this decision, the municipality stated it had a virtual meeting with Northumberland-Peterborough South and Minister of the Environment David Piccini as well as staff representatives from the province in April.

“In that meeting, it was made clear to the municipality that the decision to stop the sale of the land is final,” the municipality stated in a press release late Wednesday.

“They mayor expressed concerns raised by the municipality about the abrupt stoppage of the sale.  These concerns included feedback provided by residents and municipal stakeholders.”

The municipality states the mayor made a request for consideration of the negative impact that this decision would have on the municipality and the province advised it would follow-up that request.

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“To-date, no follow-up has occurred from the province as was agreed to at the meeting.”

“I am disappointed that the province has not engaged with us in any meaningful way, nor does it appear that they will in the foreseeable future.  We have a strong relationship with the province and would be an ideal partner on the Wesleyville file,” Sanderson added.

“I will continue to advocate this position whenever and wherever I can.”

The municipality said 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 says 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.

The municipality has also stated it was caught off-guard by the decision to halt the sale.

READ MORE: Port Hope seeks public input on waterfront and riverwalk master plan

On April 4, an OPG spokesperson told Global News Peterborough it received a shareholder directive from Ontario Energy Minister Todd Smith ordering it “not to proceed with the transaction and directs that the transaction be terminated.”

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The municipality states it will continue to work alongside elected officials and advocate for representation regarding any future development.

“All options will be explored and any necessary actions, legal or otherwise, will be considered to ensure that the municipality is treated fairly in this matter.”

“As the provincial election is currently underway, it is understandable that we likely will not get to the bottom of this issue until after election day,” added Sanderson.

“I will be the first in line to speak with the province when government resumes later this summer.”

Global News Peterborough has emailed the office of MPP Piccini for comment on this story and will update it when a response is received.


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