The debate over a new arena and casinos in Sudbury goes to a provincial court today.
The Local Planning Appeal Tribunal will meet both sides of the argument for the first time in Sudbury on Tuesday morning.
On the one hand, it is the city of Greater Sudbury, which approved plans earlier this year and developer Dario Zulich, who made the planning request.
They will face five groups that have appealed to the new provincial body, which replaced the Ontario Municipal Council earlier this year.
The calls come from the city center's business improvement association, anti-casino lawyer Tom Fortin, Sudbury planner and activist Steve May, Minnow Lake Restoration Group and Christopher Duncanson-Hales, who represent 36 leaders of faith in the city.
Tuesday will be just a preliminary meeting without solving the expected argument. But here's what you should know about how to make the decision.
1. Do not wait for a decision until the new year
The law that created the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal or LPAT gives the body 10 months to respond after an appeal has been lodged.
This would put the deadline for the Sudbury arena project and the casino in June. But the group of court adjudicators has more options to make a break in the game, especially if the two sides agree to mediation.
2. The final decision can not be taken by LPAT
The tribunal's associate chairman, James McKenzie, says that if the tribunal rejects the appeals, the local council's decision will remain in place, and the Kingsway entertainment district will go further as planned.
But unlike the Municipal Council in Ontario, which would have overturned cities with its own final decision, this court will instead turn the hot political potato back to the Greater Sudbury City Council if it agrees with the calls.
"If he finds that appeals deserve, then the matter will be sent back to the council so that they reconsider and make a new decision," McKenzie says.
And even then, any part of this debate still has the option of asking a court to carry out a judicial review of the decision.
3. This hearing will be much less an attempt
In the Ontario Municipal Board's old trial, a hearing was like a criminal lawsuit, an adjudicator acting as a judge, lawyers taking arguments and asking witnesses.
McKenzie says the hearing from LPAT will be "very different," the only tribunal panel itself being authorized to call and examine witnesses.
Mark Simeoni, former Sudbury planner and ex-employee of the Ontario Municipal Board, says the new trial is aimed at collecting information, not a court-like confrontation.
"LPAT members would call a planner like me if they need clarification regarding the written record but do not try to shake a person out of their opinion," says Simeoni.
4. The Tribunal will focus on whether the municipal council has been consistent
Simeoni says that most planning committee meetings attract residents who are concerned about the environmental impact or traffic growth from a proposed project.
But he says the tribunal should only rely on its decision to determine whether or not the city complied with its planning rules, as stated in the official plan, the provincial policy statement, and other planning documents.
Simeoni argues that, unlike the old municipal council, the tribunal does not have to decide whether the city has good policies but whether or not it pursues these policies.
"And so most people will have a connection between what motivates them to come out and what the LPAT rules will be when they analyze a request," he says.
5. There are many unknowns with a new process
Although the lawsuit for the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal is prescribed by law, it has not been tested so far.
McKenzie says about half of the appeal is now heading for this trial, but none has yet reached a hearing stage.
"It will be important for everyone to be patient because it is a new process. We, as an institution, learn and work through the process itself and gain more experience with each of us," he says.