Parkway land properties (continued)

The parcels are various shapes and sizes. “They’re all over the route,” Francis said. “Some of them are clustered together but predominantly they extend along the route.”

The city received $34 million from the federal government for almost 100 acres of city-owned industrial property in the Brighton Beach area, where a new Customs plaza and access ramps to a new bridge to Detroit will be built.

But it has also been negotiating with the province over the sale of its properties along the highway route that will connect to the plaza and bridge.

Francis said the same team of city negotiators that completed the federal deal,”sat down with the province to have discussions with them as it relates” to the parkway lands.

“And we followed the same approach that we followed with the federal government, that if you want the property let’s negotiate, let’s wrap up the sale of the property and then you can do whatever you want with them, right?” he said.

But after negotiations had begun, the province “pulled a stunt” whereby it had crews go on to the city lands and as a result talks came to an abrupt halt. “Local media brought it to our attention that they were conducting work on city property without permission,” he said.

Francis said that “things haven’t been good since then so we’re trying to get (the talks) back on the rails.”

He said the province, by dispatching the crews, “seems to not want to sit down and talk about negotiating the sale of the properties.”

Transportation ministry spokeswoman Heather Grondin said that the province “requested permission to access to city lands to undertake activities related to the planning of the Windsor-Essex Parkway in June 2008, which was denied by Council in September 2009.”

She said the province has had “several meetings with the city on property and anticipate we will schedule further meetings at both parties' convenience.”

Francis wouldn’t speculate as to how much the properties are worth or how much the city could derive from them. “It would be pretty inappropriate for me to throw out a number publically,” he said, “so all I can say is, the parties are talking, or were talking.”

He said the 150 parcels are “significant” but it would be difficult to compare them to the 94 acres sold in Brighton Beach which is a “pretty large” site. “In terms of size and scope we’ll see.”

Meanwhile Francis continues to hold talks with cabinet members about tweaking the design of the planned 11 km parkway. Infrastructure Ontario last month announced a short list of potential construction groups that would build the six-lane sunken freeway. Agency president David Livingstone said there would not be “huge deviations” form the plan, expected to be under construction by late next year.

Francis said the talks concern “whether or not we can improve what’s on the table.” Two sessions have been held “and we’re exchanging information.” The city would like improvements such as more tunnelling and green space.

He suggested there is still enough time for a solution “that we can all support.”

Francis added that from the city’s perspective “we know that there’s a long way to go before we have a shovel in the ground and it’s our hope that we can try to arrive at a solution well before that.”

He said the talks over the final details of the highway design and the property acquisitions were taking place on two tracks.

Asked if there could be trade-off between, say, a lower price for the properties and more provincial accommodation of city demands for highway improvements, Francis said there would not be.

“No, the property discussions are separate.”

Windsor Ontario News