Hospital Zoning Plan Approved After Marathon Session

Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj answers questions from Windsor City Council on August 13, 2018. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

It took over eight hours for Windsor City Council to make a decision most knew was coming, but some had feared.

In one of the longest sessions in recent memory, councillors voted in favour of accepting a rezoning plan for a new mega-hospital on County Rd. 42 and the 9th Concession Rd.

The vote was recorded around 2:40am Tuesday, following a marathon session that featured 63 delegates scheduled to speak, though not all appeared. There was also plenty of questioning going back and forth between the delegates, the city’s Planning, Heritage and Economic Development Committee, councillors, and the administration.

The final vote was eight in favour and two opposed, with Ward 8 Councillor Bill Marra, a vice-president with Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, recusing himself before the debate began.

Mayor Drew Dilkens, who supported the plan, pointed out that the $2-billion planned development is a golden opportunity for the city.

“Tonight is a big step forward,” Dilkens told the standing-room only crowd before entering his support.

Councillors Fred Francis, John Elliott, Ed Sleiman, Jo-Anne Gignac, Irek Kusmierczyk, Hilary Payne and Paul Borrelli joined Dilkens in voting yes. Rino Bortolin and Chris Holt voted no.

Holt had unsuccessfully introduced a couple of motions to defer the vote on the zoning plan, saying the administration should have been given more time before deciding. Holt expressed his disappointment to reporters and explained why he wanted more time.

“Basically we heard from the consultants that they didn’t have one specific report from the city of Windsor regarding intensification,” said Holt. “So I felt that they needed to get all that information.”

The vast majority of the delegates at the meeting were against the plan, though just about all agreed the region needed a new hospital. Presentations were occasionally interrupted by interjections and applause from audience members. Dilkens several times had to stop the proceedings to admonish those causing disruptions.

One target of those disruptions was Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj, who appeared with a legal team to give one final push for approval. Musyj called the debate “outstanding” and calmed the fears of those who believed that a new mega-hospital would result in the downtown core not having any major care facility.

“This plan is not moving forward without an urgent-care centre downtown,” said Musyj. “It’s either going to be at Grace or at Ouellette. So that is period, stop. It is going to happen.”

Musyj says the attention now turns back to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, now that the zoning is in place, and a plan to keep urgent-care in the city core is almost complete. However, members of CAMPP, the group opposed to the location of the hospital, say they are planning to appeal council’s decision, claiming flaws in the process.

Dr. Albert Kadri speaks against the hospital zoning plan at Windsor City Council on August 13, 2018. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.