Friday, January 25, 2008

River Landing: City of Saskatoon failed to record details of crucial meetings regarding Parcel “Y”; Lake Placid Investments refuses to release EOI

It’s bad enough that the City of Saskatoon and Meewasin Valley Authority appear to be turning a blind eye to a proposed development on Parcel “Y” at River Landing that does not seem to comply with the Expressions of Interest (EOI) that was issued last year or the DCD1 zoning guidelines, but now comes the revelation that the city failed to keep meaningful records of two crucial committee meetings that took place to evaluate the EOI’s and subsequent Request for Proposals (RFP).

According to documents released by the city under the Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, an administrative committee comprised of eight civic officials met on June 18, 2007, to evaluate the two EOI that were submitted for Parcel “Y”. The committee met again on September 10, 2007, to evaluate the RFP submitted by Lake Placid Investments Inc. Both meetings were conducted in the city manager’s boardroom.

With respect to the meetings the city’s January 17, 2008, response states: “There were no minutes taken of the administrative review committee, since it met only once on each occasion and submitted its report to Council immediately thereafter. The two reports to Council are, in effect, the record of the administrative committee’s evaluation of the bid(s).”

The report from the city manager concerning the EOI evaluation (F1 – EOI Selection and RFP for River Landing Parcel “Y”) that was considered by city council at its June 25, 2007, meeting was short and provided no meaningful information. The report states:
“The administrative committee conducted an evaluation based on the evaluation criteria and the information requirements of the EOI. The evaluation has found that both scored sufficiently to proceed to the RFP stage. The review indicated that Lake Placid and WAM/Concorde Group have captured the vision, land-use mix, and scale outlined in the EOI and have demonstrated the appropriate financial capacity.

The administrative committee consisted of City Manager Phil Richards, Corporate Services General Manager Marlys Bilanski, Development Services Branch Manager Randy Grauer, Senior Planner Alan Wallace, Planning Branch Manager Lorne Sully, Land Branch Manager Rick Howse, and Special Projects Manager Chris Dekker. The City Solicitor’s Office served as consultants to the review.”
Section 4.0 of the May 1, 2007 EOI states: “Proponents will be evaluated and scored to obtain a shortlist.”

Section 13.0 of the EOI outlines the evaluation criteria and notes that “the City will use a point system as a guide. Information that will be used as criteria for evaluation has been identified in Section 5.0 “Information to be Submitted”.”

This includes such things as company profile, financial information, development and management experience and concept summary and references.

The criteria and their point rating are summarized as follows:

Development and Management Experience – 30 points
Development Concept Summary – 60 points
References – 10 points
Total 100 points

The city manager’s report states that the administrative committee found that both the Lake Placid and WAM/Concorde Group EOI “scored sufficiently to proceed to the RFP stage” but provided no specific details to support that claim.

It would appear that no record exists showing the scoring for the two EOI. No minutes were taken and no formal detailed report was prepared by the committee. If any such record does exist it was not included in the package sent by the city. The level of accountability is nil.

According to a September 18, 2007, email from city administration the executive committee, which is composed of all members of council with the mayor sitting as chair, “did not review, evaluate or even see any of the EOIs.”

The entire evaluation process of the Parcel “Y” EOI seems to have been conducted in a vacuum. There is no paper trail. All that exists from the process is a nondescript 60-word paragraph in the city manager’s report to council for its June 25, 2007, meeting.

Unfortunately, according to the city’s January 17, 2008, cover letter both it and the developer, Lake Placid Investments Inc., are refusing to release the EOI. It appears that neither party is interested in having the document undergo public scrutiny. What is it they don’t want people to know?

As for the evaluation of the RFP the administrative committee kept no minutes of its meeting but did submit a short report to city council for its September 17, 2007, meeting. However, it appears to have misled the public.

The report from the city manager (F1 – River Landing Parcel “Y” – Lake Placid Investments Inc. Proposal Evaluation) claims that: “The submission addressed all criteria requested in the RFP and demonstrates a great deal of effort and investment.”

Section 5.1 of the RFP outlined the point scoring system the city used in evaluating the Lake Placid submission. It states:
“The criteria identify the most important elements of the project. Council has expressed a priority list as referenced in Section 5.7 of the Request for Expressions of Interest which includes:

Priority 1 Essential Elements (must be in proposal)

Street-level retail


Destination attraction/public gathering place

Priority 2 Important Elements (additional points scored)

Residential housing


Public parking in addition to requirements under DCD1 (additional parking allocated for public use in conjunction with a permitted use under DCD1)

Priority 3 Allowable Uses (no additional points scored)

All other uses allowed under DCD1”
Of the 100 total points available the ‘mix of proposed uses’ was worth 40. The city assigned the Lake Placid proposal a score of 37 saying that it “meets and exceeds City Council’s priorities outlined in the RFP.”

“A new restaurant, extensive retail, a public plaza, boutique hotel, office space, a health facility (open to the public via membership), extra public parking, and residential opportunities offer a great range of uses which will promote activity on the street,” notes the report.

The problem, however, is that the Lake Placid proposal does not appear to contain one of the mandatory priority one essential elements.

The EOI issued on May 1, 2007, required a “destination attraction/gathering place.” The EOI stated that the destination attraction’s purpose is “to build on the downtown’s role as the cultural heart of the city by the development of cultural facilities which can improve economic prospects and encourage tourism.”

It should be noted that the terms “destination attraction” and “cultural facility” does not seem to appear anywhere in the Lake Placid proposal.

The public component of Lake Placid’s hotel-office-residential complex consists of a raised plaza that includes a skating rink in the winter and a reflecting pool in the summer. A waterfall is also proposed. The developer describes this as “its main feature” on page 25 in its proposal. These, however, are not cultural facilities and do not constitute the required destination attraction.

Furthermore, it also appears that the proposed uses are not permitted under the DCD1 zoning guidelines. The DCD1 clearly state that the “only permitted uses” are interpretive centres, theatres, heritage facilities, museums, art galleries, amphitheatres, display space, events programming, tour offices, box offices and public institutional offices.

It’s interesting to note that office space is listed last in city council’s list of priorities for Parcel “Y”.

The city has thus far refused to explain why the mandatory destination attraction does not seem to be included in the Lake Placid proposal, but the less desirable office space is. This leads to the question, how did the Lake Placid proposal proceed beyond the EOI stage when it perhaps should have been disqualified?


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