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Documents contradict BIA story on party cancellation

Correspondence shows BIA well aware of Pride's involvement

The Bank St Business Improvement Area (BIA) is quietly distributing material to counter claims that it acted inappropriately when it cancelled a Bank St reopening party.

However, documents obtained by Xtra contradict the BIA’s claims, and those close to the event question the authenticity of a letter the BIA is distributing as evidence.

The party would have marked the end of a four-year period in which construction tore up the road, closed sidewalks and forced pedestrians to bypass shops in order to avoid the chaos. Plans also included Pride Week celebrations during a portion of the event.

The event was cancelled by the BIA’s board in July.

In a new development, Xtra has obtained copies of emails sent by Gerry Lepage, executive director of the BIA, to neighbourhood residents who complained about the decision to cancel the event.

In response, Lepage sent them copies of minutes, emails and a letter he allegedly sent to Glen Crawford, chair of the Village Committee and Doug Saunders-Riggins, chair of Capital Pride.

Xtra contacted both Crawford and Saunders-Riggins about the letter — but both say they never received it.

“No, this letter did not arrive to me either via email or snail mail. I check the Pride mailbox every two days, and my email is checked at least twice a day,” wrote Saunders-Riggins in an email.

Xtra reviewed communication between the three groups to try to confirm Lepage’s comments — made to the Ottawa Sun and the Citizen — that he was not aware that the event coincided with Pride.

Plans for the reopening of Bank Street began with a meeting on March 9. It included representatives of the BIA, the Village and Diane Holmes’ office. The minutes referenced the Village Committee’s role in the reopening, including a reference to a Pride event.

On March 30, the minutes of the meeting showed the rough logistics for Village and Pride events during the party and street closure.

The next meeting was scheduled for April 27 — Xtra has not been able to get copies of the minutes of the meeting, nor of the meetings scheduled for May.

However, on June 29, Kimberley Doyle, executive assistant for the BIA, sent out an email to the planning committee.

“There is no formal agenda for today’s meeting, as we are quite eager to review Pride’s activities/schedule of events for their three-block area within the festival,” it reads.

After the planning committee meeting on June 29, Crawford sent an email to Doyle saying that he would be contacting Saunders about Pride activities.

Doyle also sent Crawford an email later in the day stating that the BIA would be willing to “split the day in half with Pride getting the latter portion of the day,” and with reference to the children’s activities, “all activities can be manned by volunteers until Pride members can take over.”

On July 7, Crawford wrote an email to the BIA and Diane Holmes’ office asking some questions about the opening: could they use Florence St for activities and would someone from Holmes’ office be willing to send the liquor licence applications to the Village Committee.

Crawford also asked how the promotion was going, writing that Capital Pride had already begun to advertise and he presented a general outline of the day’s events from noon till 10pm.

Also on the same day, July 7, Lepage sent an email to Diane Holmes and members of the planning committee announcing that the BIA was changing the date of the event from Aug 22 to Aug 15.

In the email, Lepage writes, “our sales are marginalized when… they fall within the same time period as the Exhibition, and when they fall too far into August, as to capture a significant portion of the back-to-school sales.”

Both Crawford and Saunders replied to Lepage, outlining their concerns over the proposed date change, which moved the event out of Pride Week.

Crawford’s email begins with his dismay over the decision.

“That’s a pretty major decision that I would have hoped the whole planning committee could have had an opportunity to weigh in on,” he wrote.

Crawford also suggests that the sidewalk sale be pushed a week forward but that the opening party remain on the same date.

Saunders-Riggins’ email to the BIA echoed the concerns brought up by Crawford.

And this is where things start to get a little tricky.

In the emails Lepage sent out to residents obtained by Xtra, he enclosed a letter he allegedly sent to Crawford and Saunders-Riggins. The letter, dated July 13, reiterates the BIA’s original reason for changing the dates as concern about the sidewalk sale.

He also says that the BIA was unaware that “the events being contemplated by the Village constituted a component of the Capital Pride Festival activities nor were we aware that the Village event fell within the Capital Pride Week festival, as that was not communicated to us verbally or in writing at any time.”

Lepage wrote that the BIA could not substantiate Crawford and Saunders-Riggins’ claim that they had already Crawford’s last correspondence with the BIA on July 7 that the Village plans were shaping up. They were waiting for the BIA’s approval on using Florence St and for Diane Holmes’ office to send liquor licences — six weeks in advance of the event.

Calls to Lepage were not returned by press time.