Freedom of Information requests can take a very long time to be answered. It takes stamina to stick with it and, even then, there is no guarantee you'll get anything.
Too often we are told there are "no records" when, in fact, there are.
I filed a Freedom of Information request almost nine months ago, on 2 February 2023, for records relating to King Township’s search for a site for a new hospital. I made it clear I was seeking
“all records relating to the process or mechanism in place to identify lands in King which might be suitable for a new Southlake hospital”.
On 2 March 2023 I was told:
“A search has been conducted and no responsive records were located.”
I appealed to the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
Mayor Pellegrini subsequently discovered relevant records.
On 5 October 2023 I was told by the Township that a third party had to be consulted (presumably the landowner) before the records could be released. A decision on whether or not to release the records will be made by 6 November 2023.
That is over a year since the meeting at King Municipal Centre on 1 November 2022 when the developer Michael Rice offered Southlake Chief Executive, Arden Krystal, land for a new Southlake in the protected countryside in the Greenbelt, essentially for free.
The Mayor, Steve Pellegrini, told Newmarket Today on 9 November 2022 that a second site for Southlake "had been in the works" for a couple of years.
On 2 February 2023, Pellegrini had the nerve to castigate Opposition Leader Marit Stiles for “disseminating false information” about King and the Greenbelt, urging her to check her facts first before commenting. This from the man who regularly speaks out of both sides of his mouth, turning it into an art-form.
“The idea of a hospital in King is not a new one. I have been moving this idea forward since 2019—on different lands, with different landowners.”
Where are these different lands? Who are these different landowners?
Onion farmer and champion of agriculture, Councillor Avia Eek, had no idea the Bathurst lands in her Ward 6 were being discussed by Pellegrini as the site for a new Southlake.
Pellegrini told the Integrity Commissioner that other lands in the vicinity of Michael Rice’s Bathurst site had already been discussed as a possible hospital site.
On 15 October 2023 I wrote to Mayor Pellegrini, copied to all members of King Council and to senior staff, asking where these “other lands” were located and who was involved in the discussions concerning their suitability as a possible site for a second Southlake.
Mayor Pellegrini replied on 20 October 2023:
“I had a discussion years ago with a landowner that brought forward the idea of donating lands for a new hospital site.”
So the “other lands” and “other landowners” have now morphed into a discussion with a single landowner.
My hunch is that the "other landowner" is John Dunlap, the former member of Southlake Board who was the land agent who facilitated the sale of the Bathurst Greenbelt lands from Bob Schickedanz to Michael Rice. Dunlap owns land immediately to the South of Michael Rice's Bathurst lands.
We shall (perhaps) be told on 6 November 2023.
To Mayor Pellegrini: 15 October 2023
Dear Mayor Pellegrini
We have been in correspondence before about your role in the proposed development of a second Southlake on prime agricultural land in the protected countryside in the Greenbelt in King.
I am writing to ask if you would now identify the location of the “other lands” in King that were discussed as a possible site for the second Southlake.
I had intended to put this question directly to you at tomorrow’s Council meeting but the Township Clerk informed me this would not be possible as King does not have an Open Forum component to its meetings.
In February 2023 you told the King Sentinel that you had been searching for a suitable site for a second Southlake for years:
“I have been moving this idea forward since 2019 - on different lands, with different landowners. At the time of our meeting, I brought the idea of a hospital forward to the Rice Group and they were open to discussion.”
You told me in your email of 19 April 2023 that at the meeting in question - your lunch with Michael Rice at the Terra Restaurant on 10 August 2022 - you asked him if he would be interested in donating land for a second Southlake.
“I brought the idea of a hospital forward to the Rice Group and they were open to discussion.”
The Integrity Commissioner, David Wake, interviewed you in connection with his inquiry into the former Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister, Steve Clark. In paragraph 288 of his report, Mr Wake writes:
“… the Mayor explained that other lands in the vicinity (of the Bathurst site) had already been discussed as a possible hospital site and that if Mr Rice contributed land from his recently purchased property, he believed it would be a viable option for the hospital and a significant benefit for King Township.”
I have been filing Freedom of Information requests with your municipality since December 2022 and I am told there are no records of discussions involving these “other lands”. No search was conducted by the Township to identify lands that might be suitable for a second Southlake. The Director of Growth Management has not been able to shed any light on these “other lands” and advises me to contact the Province.
Given this, I should be grateful if you would let me know where these “other lands” are located and who was involved in the discussions concerning their suitability as a possible site for a second Southlake.
I am copying this to your councillor colleagues and, as a courtesy, to the Chief Administrative Officer, Mr Kostopoulos, the Township Clerk, Mr Timm, and the Director of Growth Management, Mr Naylor.
I look forward to hearing from you.
From Mayor Steve Pellegrini: 20 October 2023
I had a discussion years ago with a landowner that brought forward the idea of donating lands for a new hospital site. I have provided records arising from this discussion to the Township Clerk. Any additional details regarding their disclosure should be directed to the Township Clerk .
Mayor Steve Pellegrini