Because of the decision of Middlesex County at its meeting held yesterday, the Board of Health is having to explore options and will make a court application about the Health Unit’s location project to seek clarification about the need for the consent of its funders.
In 2015, the County of Middlesex informed the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) of its intention to redevelop the land it owns at 50 King Street in London, including a potential zoning amendment to permit development of a 28-storey mixed-use project. The Health Unit currently leases office space at 50 King Street, which serves as its main office, while also maintaining offices at 201 Queens Ave. in London and 51 Front Street East, in Strathroy.
The MLHU embarked on an intensive review of its current and future space requirements, including a needs analysis, adoption of location selection criteria and public and partner consultations with respect to its options for a future centralized location. MLHU identified a prospective new site using a two-phase process involving:
- submissions of interest from prequalified landlords, vendors and builders for the construction or lease of a building to house MLHU’s main office and staff; and
- delivery of proposals from shortlisted parties in response to a Request for Proposal issued in December 2016.
From the shortlisted proposals, the Health Unit entered into negotiations with one proponent, Avison Young Commercial Real Estate, acting on behalf of the owner of the Citi Plaza premises at 355 Wellington Street, London. MLHU entered into a letter of intent with Avison Young on January 15th, 2018 to lease approximately 68,930 square feet at 355 Wellington Street.
“We are excited about the possibilities that this new location provides for the Health Unit. Our chosen proposal provides the MLHU with an excellent opportunity to serve our clients and community with a world-class business partner,” says Dr. Chris Mackie, Medical Officer of Health / CEO with the Middlesex-London Health Unit.
While the City of London provided its consent to the proposed location and lease, the Health Unit’s current landlord, the County of Middlesex declined to provide its consent at the County Council meeting held yesterday.
“We have pursued every possible course of action with our partners. Our process has been thorough, carefully considered, open and transparent; all the while we have been focused on how to best serve the needs of our clients and communities,” says Ian Peer, Provincial Appointee to the Middlesex-London Board of Health.
The powers and obligations of a Board of Health are outlined in the Health Protection and Promotion Act. It is MLHU’s position that, as a Board of Health established under that legislation, it has the authority to enter into a lease without the consent of the County of Middlesex. The opposite conclusion would mean that MLHU could enter into no lease without the consent of its current landlord, while being subject to the possibility that the County of Middlesex could terminate MLHU’s existing lease arrangements on twelve months’ notice.
Faced with this dilemma, the Board of Health on March 7th, 2018 with the assistance of its legal counsel, has been forced to initiate an application in the Superior Court of Justice for a ruling to determine whether the consent of MLHU’s municipal partners is required for the proposed lease transaction. MLHU will be seeking to have that issue determined by the Court at an early date in order to ensure that the opportunity to pursue the Citi Plaza lease will not be lost. It is anticipated that such legal proceeding will start in the coming days.
The Middlesex-London Health Unit’s project plan for its location project will be available on the Health Unit’s website at: www.healthunit.com
Dan Flaherty, Communications Manager, Middlesex-London Health Unit, 519-663-5317 ext. 2469 or 519-617-0570 (cell)
Dr. Chris Mackie, Medical Officer of Health/CEO, Middlesex-Lodnon Health Unit
Mr. Ian Peer, Provincial Appointee to the Middlesex-London Board of Health