Statement by Mayor John Rodriguez on the Sale of the Former Sudbury General Hospital/St. Joseph's Health Centre June 18, 2010 The Sisters of St. Joseph have now made public the fact that they are pursuing a private sale of the buildings and land at the site of the former General Hospital / St Joseph's Health Centre. I know much discussion has taken place prior to this announcement – in the media, in homes, and in official circles. Now that one of the parties involved has released this confirmation, I can provide more information to the public. This is a unique issue in which the city and my office have been involved as a potential purchaser, a regulatory body, a community advocate and an abutting landowner. When information came to us it was not always easy to determine whether or not it could be shared or with whom. It has been difficult to respond to questions while respecting the fact that the details of the sale were information that correctly belonged to the Sisters and the buyer. When I was told about the sale, I was disappointed. I share our community's strong attachment to the site and I also felt, on a professional level, that the City was not given an appropriate opportunity to acquire the land, despite the fact that we had made an offer to purchase the property several years before. In fact, we had a verbal commitment to complete the sale once the Sisters had determined how to demolish the building. That being said, I want to say, and emphasize, that there are no villains in this story. The land in question is owned by the Sisters. After serving our community's health care needs over the last 66 years, I believe they are entitled to dispose of their property as they see fit. The congregation mortgaged their assets to purchase the land and build a hospital that served our community exceptionally well for many, many years. Concerns have also been raised regarding the Bell Park Covenant and I want to lay those fears to rest – the hospital site is not part of the Bell estate, and is not affected by the covenant. Some of the adjoining property, however, including the parking lots, were part of the Bell Estate and are subject to the terms of the covenant. There have been questions about how the City could 'let” the purchase of this site slip through our fingers. I want to take this opportunity to respond to some of those questions. In 2007, the City submitted an offer for the hospital site as a 'greenfield,” meaning that the building would no longer be on the site. This was, in fact, part of the stipulation provided by the Sisters, which stated that 'the Ministry of Health will coordinate the demolition of the hospital when it is no longer needed”. Unfortunately, as matters progressed, there was some misunderstanding: while Sister Bonnie MacLellan, General Superior, felt that informing City staff that she had received an unsolicited offer constituted sufficient notice, we were not provided with details on this competing bid. I believed that before any such offer would be finalized, the Sisters would respond in writing to the City offer and options would be placed before Council. It is unfortunate that this did not occur. On May 31, the Sisters informed city staff that they would be signing the offer to finalize the sale later that day. Sister Bonnie MacLellan and I have discussed this and she indicates that she feels this was the city's opportunity to request a delay or opportunity to counter the offer. I felt that she was simply informing us of a done deal and no
information was provided that would allow us to develop a counter offer. In fact, we still have not been provided with the full details of the proposed sale. It is likely, however, that even if we had been given written notification of the new offer and sufficient time to respond, the outcome would have been the same. The Sisters received an unconditional offer for the building 'as is.” Neither this Council, nor the previous one, has ever envisioned buying the building: Estimates to demolish the building range from $3 million to $5 million, and the city has done no assessment of the condition of the structure. Given the fact that the Sisters had such a short time to finalize the sale, it is extremely unlikely we would have been able to deliberate on this option, and even more unlikely we would have decided to counter the offer. While I would have chosen a more open and inclusive process, I have met with the Sisters and told them that I respect their right to sell their own property. Sister Bonnie MacLellan assures me that the purchasers have a good reputation. I intend to meet with the new owner as soon as possible to understand their vision for the site. I will also convey the public's strong interest in any project that is proposed for this property. At the present time we have had no indication of the purchaser's ultimate plans for the property. Any development proposed for this site will be subject to municipal requirements for zoning and planning, and these will go through the normal application and approval process. There are City-owned lands around the building, including the parking lots, that are not included in the sale. The motto of our City is 'Come, let us build together” – let us not forget the many great things that we are making happen in this community. Our outlook is bright, and I, for one, am looking forward to the future.
Mayor Rodriquez's statement about the sale of the St. Joe's Hospital land May 2010