August 4, 2020

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St. James residents hire lawyer in fight over land transfer for addictions-treatment centre

A rendering of the proposed Bruce Oake Treatment Facility. (mmparchitects)</p></p>

A rendering of the proposed Bruce Oake Treatment Facility. (mmparchitects)

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/8/2018 (722 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A community group opposed to the establishment of an addictions recovery centre in a St. James neighbourhood said they’re looking into the legalities of the land transfer from city to province.

The Friends of Sturgeon Creek said they have hired a lawyer with Pitblado Law to look into the transfer of the shuttered Vimy Arena property to the province to facilitate the construction of the Bruce Oake Memorial Recovery Centre.

"There are many obvious alternative (sites) that were never looked at in any way for the recovery centre," said MLA Steven Fletcher, who said he was asked to speak on behalf of the community group.

The land outlined in yellow will be sold for $1 to Manitoba Housing, which in turn will lease the property to the Bruce Oake Foundation for the establishment of the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre. (City of Winnipeg) </p>

The land outlined in yellow will be sold for $1 to Manitoba Housing, which in turn will lease the property to the Bruce Oake Foundation for the establishment of the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre. (City of Winnipeg)

Council earlier this year approved the $1 sale of a 2.5-acre site on the banks of Sturgeon Creek — where the arena and its parking lot are located — to Manitoba Housing, which plans to lease the property to the Oake family foundation.

The Oake family wants to build a $14-million, 50-bed, long-term addictions facility for men in memory of their son Bruce, who died from a drug overdose at the age of 25 in March 2011. Addicts would be treated at no cost, with all expenses covered by a foundation the family set up in their son’s name.

The Oake family is holding an open house Tuesday afternoon at the Sturgeon Heights Community Centre to reveal conceptual plans for project.

The arena was declared surplus in 2013 and eventually closed in 2015, after a facility with two rinks was opened across town on Leila Avenue in Garden City.

“There are many obvious alternative (sites) that were never looked at in any way for the recovery centre,” said MLA Steven Fletcher, who said he was asked to speak on behalf of the community group. (Supplied)

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“There are many obvious alternative (sites) that were never looked at in any way for the recovery centre,” said MLA Steven Fletcher, who said he was asked to speak on behalf of the community group. (Supplied)

The treatment centre proposal was a divisive issue for the Sturgeon Creek neighbourhood, with thousands of area residents and thousands more in other areas opposing the project.

Residents' opposition has focused on the loss of green space and recreational opportunities and city hall’s failure to generate any meaningful revenue from the sale. The arena property has been valued at $1.4 million and it was closed with a commitment from city council that its sale would finance new recreational amenities for the area.

Fletcher said he was speaking on behalf of the group, explaining that representatives were not available to comment.

He said the group has hired a lawyer to investigate the several breaches of the city’s own policies and procedures for real estate transactions that were identified by an audit of the sale by the city’s Independent Fairness Commissioner.

(The Independent Fairness Commissioner is a contract position at city hall, currently carried out by the Winnipeg office of Deloitte LLP, which examines real estate transactions to ensure they are "performed in a fair, transparent, and open manner.")

Scott Oake,  seen speaking to city councillors about the proposed recovery centre earlier this year, said the family's foundation "has always followed due process." (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Scott Oake, seen speaking to city councillors about the proposed recovery centre earlier this year, said the family's foundation "has always followed due process." (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The audit found that an environmental assessment had not been carried out and summaries of consultations with the legal services and community services departments were not included in the file, along with any notes or summaries from the property, planning and development department on the negotiations. There was also no documentation on the legal agreement of sale to the province.

The audit noted the property’s eligibility for purchase had not been posted on the city’s website after it had been declared surplus and there was no explanation in the file was to why a competitive procurement process had not been followed.

Scott Oake said the family's foundation "has always followed due process."

Oake, a prominent national television sportscaster, said the Tuesday event is complying with the city's rezoning process.

"The first public meeting being held (Tuesday) is an opportunity for residents to view our initial plan, seek clarity and share concerns," Oake, president of the family foundation, said in an email to the Free Press. "We encourage all to participate in this transparent process so together we can put our best foot forward and offer a service to preserve lives in our community."

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Monday, August 13, 2018 at 6:02 PM CDT: Adds comment from Oake family, Fletcher.

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