Truth And Consequences: Lansdowne Deal Fact-Checked

This is an email sent to The Bulldog by Lansdowne community activist Alexandra Gruca-Macaulay:

Councillor Cathy Curry has sent a note to her constituents suggesting that some of the facts and issues that have arisen concerning the Lansdowne 2.0 proposal are akin to schoolyard “telephone tag” and has issued her version of “misconceptions v. facts”

With a spending decision this large, decision-makers were invited to fact-check Councillor Curry’s presentation of the issues and claims of “fact”:

“$419 million net cost to taxpayers v. $95 million net cost, spread over many years”

Council is being asked to approve a budget authority for $419.1 million. The creative claim: “it will only cost you $95M!” relies on suggested offsets to the $312.7 million in new City debt that would be needed for Lansdowne 2.0, like “Hotel Tax.” Except, a hotel currently is just an “idea,” and Ottawa Tourism would need to agree to give up 40 years of its owed hotel tax and donate it to Lansdowne instead. The figure also depends on a future hope that the cashflow “Waterfall”—which has run dry to date—would gush forth $252 million to the City.

 


City is giving millions to a private business v. City is investing in assets we own

Does the City of Ottawa have priorities other than a new football stadium and arena to “invest” $419.1 million in? The OSEG/City Partnership consistently has lost money and fallen far below Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group’s projections; OSEG’s solution? Have the City spend another $419.1 million; maybe it is time for a new investment advisor.

Thumb-Sucking Councillors Get Petty On Lansdowne

Cost of doing nothing is $0 v. Cost of doing nothing is $12.5 million per year

This is what was actually reported: “The City’s Chief Financial Officer has determined…that, …. [if] OSEG defaults, there would be an immediate negative impact …that would range between $4.5M (optimistic and unlikely) and $12.5M (pessimistic), depending on the length of time the impacts of the pandemic are experienced…” Lansdowne 2020 Annual Report. The 2023 Annual Report states that operations have returned to pre-pandemic levels. There is an imperative to provide viable options that take into account not just costs and expenses but also revenues, gains and opportunity costs. Instead, Council is being presented with one take-it-or-leave-it proposal that in unsupported by necessary transparent analysis.

 

Taxpayers have lost millions so far v. Taxpayers have lost $0 so far

Taxpayers funded $210 million in spending for Lansdowne 1.0; and there is still 30 years of debt repayment left on the $154 million City Lansdowne 1.0 debt. The Lansdowne 2.0 Report advises that as a “legacy” project there is no limit to the amount that property taxes can be raised to service Lansdowne debt (p.123).

 

Very little for affordable housing v. City will receive $12M for affordable housing

The Lansdowne 2.0 Report states that $3.9 Million—10% of the estimated revenues from the sale of air rights—would be set aside for affordable housing (p.116). This amount does not meet the City’s policy requirement that when there is residential development on city-owned land, 25% should be allocated to affordable housing.  The figure of $12M is based on the assumption that there would be matching funding from provincial and federal governments. This matching funding is not guaranteed and may not be available at all, since current funding programs have a 2026 deadline and give preference to projects near transit.

 

Arena is being expanded v. Seating is being reduced from 10,000 to 5,500

The issue that has been raised is that the new arena would remove a sizeable portion of Lansdowne Park greenspace. If the arena is moved from its current footprint as proposed, then 58,000 sq. ft. of public park greenspace would be lost. This includes the Great Toboggan Hill.

 

Sports teams all play in private facilities v. No CFL or OHL teams play in private stadiums

How many cities rent out their stadiums, arenas, and shopping complexes for $1.0 year? – For the past 10 years the City has charged OSEG $1.0 a year in rent for the facilities.

 

Too much density on the site v . Density was reduced after public consultation

Density was reduced when city realized that third tower would be vulnerable to an Ontario Land Tribunal Appeal.

 

Lansdowne 1.0 failed More than 20 million visitors, 4,000 jobs

The OSEG/City Partnership has “posted net financial losses for each fiscal year and has yet to generate net positive cashflows…” Lansdowne 2023 Annual Report; in other words – 10 years of failure.

 

Green roof and stadium cover removed v. Neither were part of plan; could still be added in

“The redevelopment will [have a facility with]… a live green roof.” p. 12 Lansdowne Partnership Sustainability Plan and Implementation Report, approved by FEDCO and Council May 2022.

 

This is a done deal v. Staff are being authorized only to take next step

“That the Joint Finance and Corporate Services Committee & Planning and Housing Committee recommend that City Council:

2. Approve the financial funding strategy…including increasing the budget authority by $86.5 million, for an estimated total of $419.1 million… including as follows:

a. Approve the Business Case estimating the tax supported debt servicing budget to be increased by $16.4 million…

b. Approve the establishment of a Lansdowne Debt Servicing Reserve…

d. Approve an $18.6 million budget for the construction of a maximum of 140 parking spaces…”  Lansdowne Partnership Plan – Authorization to Proceed to the Next Steps in the Redevelopment Report, Report to Joint Finance and Corporate Services Committee & Planning and Housing Committee on 2 November 2023 and Council 10 November 2023.

It is time for some Councillors to stop kicking taxpayers’ dollars around like a shiny new toy, and insist on a transparent, comprehensive, and accurate analysis of the proposal.

 —

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