Planning tribunal dismisses mega-hospital challenge, CAMPP could still appeal

The Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) has dismissed the Citizens for an Accountable Megahospital Planning Process (CAMPP) appeal of the chosen site for the mega-hospital in Windsor. 

The tribunal's decision upholds the City of Windsor's decision to establish a planning framework — which includes the County Road 42 plan — as well as the zoning by-law amendment for County Road 42 and Concession Road 9. 

The tribunal heard from both the City and CAMPP in October, over the course of multiple days of hearings. 

The decision — delivered by LPAT member Scott Tousaw from Stratford, Ont. — said the site plan and zoning bylaw amendment are "consistent" with the provincial policy statement and that CAMPP had not "met its onus on appeal."

"Accordingly, the appeals are dismissed," the decision reads. 

Amy Dodge/CBC

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens thanked the Windsor Regional Hospital team for their hard work over the last few years. 

"There's no question in my mind that the application to re-zone these lands was one of the well-thought out applications I've seen in my time in municipal politics," said Dilkens. "It was so well done by people who are experts in their field."

Dilkens called the LPAT's dismissal a "small step forward" but offered congratulations to all involved in the process.

'Next stage is critical,' says hospital CEO

During a media conference held on Tuesday, Windsor Regional Hospital president and CEO David Musyj addressed the mega-hospital's potential completion timeline, saying "the next stage is critical."

According to Musyj, there's at least four years of "functional programming" and design work needed to be completed before construction on the mega-hospital can truly begin.

Functional programming refers to the process by which hospital planners and administration "put into words how each program is to be operated in the new facility," Musyj said.

Windsor Regional Hospital Handout

"Not only with respect to the physical space that's need, but with respect to the staffing, with respect to the patients, with respect to the programming we're going to be doing," he said. "It's [a] really exciting part of this process."

Once functional programming work is done, Musyj said hospital plans will be provided to designers and architects to actually bring the vision to life.

"The way a hospital should be operated is the way it's going to be designed, not the other way around," he said. "We could design the most beautiful hospital in the world, but if it's not functional, it's not worth it."

Musyj said members of the Windsor-Essex community will be "directly involved in the functional programming part and also the design part."

"The last thing we want to do is build this hospital and have to change it the first day we move in."

CAMPP could appeal LPAT decision, says lawyer

All along, people with CAMPP have said they firmly support a new hospital, but were in favour of a more central location. Primarily, CAMPP's opposition centred on the process to decide on a site for a new hospital, including asserting the City did not consult with Indigenous communities.

The decision from the LPAT said the "in the circumstances of these community-wide and publicly known issues, the City encouraged full participation of all potential stakeholders."

Toronto-based lawyer Eric Gillespie who represents CAMPP, said it's likely that appeals will be brought forward as a result of the LPAT's decision. 

Amy Dodge/CBC

"Based on what we've seen so far, and the decision only came out a few hours ago, I think it's certainly likely, given the number of grounds that appear to be available, that there will be some type of request," he said. 

According to Gillespie, CAMPP could ask the provincial court system to review the LPAT's decision. Additionally, he said CAMPP could also ask the LPAT itself to "internally review the decision."

He added that the LPAT's decision "does deal with a number of major issues raised by CAMPP," including concerns that more work could have been done on the City's part to consult with local Indigenous communities.

"I think CAMPP will view that as clearly a validation of why this appeal moved forward," Gillespie said. 

Should CAMPP decide to challenge the LPAT's decision, Gillespie said the organization he represents could use certain aspects of the ruling, like "evidence that was never tested through cross-examination" to launch an appeal.

If CAMPP so chooses, it will have 30 days to file an appeal. 

Matters before Tribunal wider than location concerns

According to the decision, the matters before the Tribunal were wider than just concerns over the County Road 42 proposed location. Instead, the concerns focused on the entire 'Secondary Plan' which included planning framework to develop Windsor's expansion to the area. 

Tousaw, in the decision, also noted the appeal was a land-use appeal, not an appeal of healthcare planning processes. 

"It is quite possible, based on various criteria or the body evaluating them, that some might conclude that a better site exists for the proposed hospital. The Tribunal cannot and need not determine that County Road 42 and Concession Road 9 is the best site for a regional hospital," said the decision.

Dilkens acknowledged that there are still avenues for appeal by the CAMPP party, but did not have details on the timelines for those potential avenues.

"At the end of the day, now's the time to come together," said Dilkens. 

The  Official Plan Amendment No. 120 — the City-adopted County Road 42 plan — comes into effect on Dec. 4, 2019. The zoning bylaw comes into effect Dec. 3.