HomeVote paves way for demolition of Eric Found Centre

Vote paves way for demolition of Eric Found Centre

Sep 11 2001

Time could be running out for the former Eric Found Centre after Charlottetown approved a rezoning application that would allow a housing development on the site of the former provincial Sanatorium. At Monday night's meeting of Charlottetown city council, councillors voted 7-3 to rezone the property on McGill Avenue to R-1 single family residential. Couns. Mitchell Tweel, Stu MacFadyen and Danny Redmond opposed the motion, but the majority sided with planning board chair Coun. Kathleen Casey and the area's representative, Coun. Phillip Brown.
The rezoning clears the way for plans by the APM development company to raze the aging building, origainally built as a treatment centre for tuberculosis, and turn the 7.5 acre site into a street with cul-de-sac and 19 building lots. APM's housing plans run afoul of a campaign by local seniors to have the centre turned into housing aimed at their age range.

In recent weeks, a campaign has emerged, dominated by older city residents, supporting a bid by developer Ron Martin to renovate the Eric Found Centre into a seniors' apartment complex. Brown said the direction for redevelopment of the property was set by the provincial government, which agreed to sell the property to APM for use as single-family homes. That plan was chosen over the Martin seniors' apartment proposal, another APM plan calling for a condominium development and a fourth, undisclosed proposal.

After the meeting, Brown said the city wasn't choosing between APM's plan and Martin's. He said refusing to rezone would only have put a roadblock in front of a development that was chosen after lengthy scrutiny. "It took Transportation and Public Works Minister Don MacKinnon 160 days to come out with a decision after they got the proposals for this property. That decision was for the R-1 zoning," Brown said.

Brown, who went door-to-door in the neighbourhood of the affected property with both the APM and Martin proposals, said the issue has been divisive but he is satisfied that he made the right decision. "At the end of the day that was the proposal that made it," he said. "Our vote was whether or not we would allow the rezoning."

Bob King, who lives near the Eric Found Centre, has been a leader in the opposition to APM's proposal. He said council failed to recognize seniors' needs. "I know seniors who were here tonight who are very disappointed, especially with their councillors," said King, a constutuent of Brown's.

"It may take some time before I'm all right with my councillor again." The disappointment of the seniors who filled the council chamber was palpable, and audible, as they filed into the hallway after the rezoning was approved. Some stopped to hiss comments at APM president Tim Banks who stood in the hallway talking to the media.

Banks said despite the intentions of the Martin group and the hopes of seniors, his plan simply made more sense than the apartment proposal. Asbestos is used extensively in the building, much of which has gone unused for 10 years. "That building has a lot of structural and environmental issues with it," he said.

He said APM has been interested in the property since the government of premier Catherine Callbeck first discussed divesting itself of the Eric Found Centre. Banks said he anticipates it will cost $750,000 to acquire, clear and prepare the site for housing lots. He wants to start soon.

"We have an application that is already in, looking for a demolition permit," he said. The controversial rezoning did not move quietly through council chambers. Before presenting the recommendation, Casey stood to reject allegations that she was in a conflict of interest in dealing with APM's proposal. Her husband, Kevin Casey, is a partner in the law firm Stewart McKelvey Sterling Scales. Two lawyers in the firm's Charlottetown office do work for APM.

"I don't have a connection, business or otherwise, with APM," she said. "I am not my husband; rather, I am a distinct human being." Casey said discussion about possible new uses for the property began as far back as June 2000 and all options, including the Martin plan, were looked at.

Coun. Clifford proposed a resolution that would have deferred the property to the Charlottetown Area Development Corporation for redevelopment, but that proposal was defeated. "I don't think it's really right for the province to say that this is the way the property is going to be developed and city council can deal with the outcry," Lee said.

Coun. Mitchell Tweel said city council should take its own responsibility for approving or rejecting the rezoning request. "It's not the provincial government voting here tonight," he said.

Media Contact: MediaReleases@apm.ca