(Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC - image credit)
The Ontario government is in talks with the city and neighbourhood groups over the fate of the Dominion Foundries heritage site in the West Don Lands.
A court date set for Friday on the issue has been adjourned. The case had been scheduled to be heard by a three-judge panel in Ontario Divisional Court. All parties involved in the case agreed to have the court date adjourned in the hopes of negotiating a settlement.
The Dominion Wheel and Foundries Ltd. Manufacturing Complex, located at 153 to 185 Eastern Ave., is at the centre of a fight between the province, local residents and the city. The site is provincially owned.
Community members have been fighting to stop the province from demolishing four industrial heritage buildings on the site. One building is already damaged by a demolition crew. The St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association had filed an application for an injunction to halt the demolition.
Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, who represents Ward 13, Toronto Centre, said on Tuesday the province had asked for the adjournment. She said the city agreed to see if both parties could reach a settlement out of court, adding the city will only drop the case for good if the province agrees to all the conditions set out by city lawyers.
In an email on Tuesday, the Ontario municipal affairs and housing ministry said it has sent invitations for virtual talks to the West Don Lands Committee, the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association and the Corktown Residents and Business Association.
"These meetings will be taking place shortly," Stephanie Bellotto, press secretary for Steve Clark, municipal affairs and housing minister, said in the email.
Bellotto said the ministry has encouraged the neighbourhood groups to bring members of the International Resource Centre for Performing Artists (IRCPA) to the talks. The group has proposed to "regenerate" the buildings as a place for musicians to work and perform and as a community hub for Corktown.
"As the government has been clear, the Heritage Impact Assessment for the site determined that it requires demolition to allow for environmental remediation," Bellotto said.
"The government is seeking feedback from stakeholders, residents' groups and the public on how some elements of the existing structures could inform any future development, following the completion of environmental remediation."
Wong-Tam said the city presented the province with a list of conditions for the talks.
She said the province must agree to comply with the Ontario Heritage Act and Subdivisions Agreement, to follow its own provincial policies on heritage properties, and to hold meaningful consultations with the community to ensure local residents can work together with the province on the redevelopment of the site.
If the province fails to do so, the court action will resume, she said.
"We're not going to let the province off the hook, per se, meaning that we're going to drop the case, but we're going to engage with them right now and try to get all the things we would have gotten hopefully through a court hearing, without having to go through the court hearing," Wong-Tam said.
The city solicitor is drafting potential minutes of settlement in consultation with city planning and heritage staff, she said. Then the city will give the minutes of settlement to the province for it to consider.
"We aim to secure FULL compliance with the Ontario Heritage Act, the Subdivision Agreement and to have the Province address all of our issues. If this happens, then the court hearing will no longer be necessary," Wong-Tam said on Twitter.
"If the Province is not agreeable to what the City believes are appropriate terms, including the nature of public consultation, there will be no settlement. We will then seek a new court hearing date."
Suzanne Kavanagh, chair of the development committee of the St Lawrence Neighbourhood Association and a member of Friends of the Foundry, said the province needs to consult with the community.
"I think what we want out of this whole process is to have a discussion with the province about this particular site," she said.
"We want to make sure they are following due process. What we are concerned about is that they have followed due process and that they are following their own rules and regulations as far as disposal of public lands."
CBC News revealed on Monday that the government reached an agreement of purchase and sale of the site last fall after months of negotiations with an unnamed buyer. The government has said the site has not been sold but refuses to say why there have been no open call for bids on the property.
On Monday, Steve Clark, Ontario Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister, said the province is now interested in consulting the community on the matter.
"The site hasn't been sold," Clark told reporters. "Now, our focus is different. Our focus is ensuring that there is consultation on that site."
The ministry has set up online public consultation on the government's website and it is open until March 4.