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Security firm ends patrols, but Italo Ferrari insists old hospital still monitored

RLP Security Services Ltd. stopped providing security at former downtown hospital site March 16; owners have also decided to discontinue high-profile court action against city

The security company tasked with monitoring the former General Hospital site is no longer providing security at the dilapidated property. 

Nicolas Rabaa, president of RLP Security Services Ltd., confirmed that his company stopped providing security at the decrepit Queen St. E eyesore for Leisure Meadows Community Living effective March 16. Additional details have not been disclosed. 

In an email to SooToday, Woodbridge, Ont. developer Italo Ferrari — the controversial general manager and public face of Leisure Meadows — assured the public that the site remains secure, despite a number of news tips over the past week suggesting the exact opposite.  

“We want to reassure the public that the General Hospital site is secured and regularly monitored by staff,” said Ferrari. “In compliance with city by-laws, additional construction fencing will be established as we continue to clean up the site and prepare for future developments.”

The former hospital site at 941 Queen St. E has become a hot-button issue around town over the past couple years. The issue came to a head in December 2022, when city council engaged Ferrari in a heated debate for nearly an hour over the decrepit former General and Plummer hospital sites during a council meeting.  

When confronted by members of council during the meeting, Ferrari used the phrase "concentration camp" to describe what the decrepit hospital site would look like if securely fenced, prompting two members of council to leave the meeting over the remark. He would later issue an apology to the municipality, hours after being rebuked publicly by Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Matthew Shoemaker.

City council ultimately voted to consider expropriating and demolishing the derelict properties while looking at tougher enforcement measures. Demolition is estimated to cost about $6 million, with added costs for expropriation, insurance and environmental liabilities.

At one time, Ferrari had high hopes for the former hospital properties: In 2022, he told SooToday that he planned to convert the vacant General Hospital site into a long-term care facility and retrofit 82 apartments in the five-storey Plummer site. An additional 65 townhouses were also planned for the parking lot of the former General Hospital.

Those plans have seemingly crumbled over the years, as both the General and Plummer hospital sites have remained abandoned. 

The old General Hospital site had 72 visits by bylaw enforcement officers between April and December of 2022. The former Plummer renal unit at 995 Queen Street East had 36 visits within the same time span. The majority of the visits concerned the boarding up of the buildings or yard cleanup. 

In May 2023, Leisure Meadows filed an application in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, requesting an injunction preventing the city’s enforcement of provisions within its property bylaw regarding vacant, demolished and damaged buildings. 

The real estate developer was also seeking a declaration from the City of Sault Ste. Marie that the portion of its property standards bylaw called into question was “vague, illegal and unenforceable.” 

The civil matter was triggered after notices from the city bylaw enforcement required Leisure Meadows to provide security personnel to monitor the building — 24 hours a day, seven days a week — and to keep records. The company was also ordered to show the city proof it had obtained no less than $2 million worth of liability insurance for each building. 

The application for an injunction was dropped by Leisure Meadows earlier this month, court records show. 

As it stands now, Ferrari and Leisure Meadows seem to have their redevelopment plans on ice: As previously reported by SooToday, Leisure Meadows put the former Plummer hospital site at 995 Queen St. E. up for sale — at a jaw-dropping price tag of $3.6 million — in October of last year. 

That’s more than four times the amount the old renal building was purchased for. 

Publicly available records from the provincial land registry office show that Leisure Meadows, a subsidiary of Wilsondale Assets Management Inc., acquired the former Sault Area Hospital site in 2019 for a combined $1.3-million: $450,000 for the old General Hospital site and $850,000 for the Plummer site.

"Personally, I think they’re asking for much more than it’s worth, but the market will dictate what it’s worth,” said Mayor Matthew Shoemaker, during a December 2023 interview in our SooToday studio. “I don’t see it going for that price, but I don’t know.” 

The site of another failed Ferrari development, the former St. Veronica school in the city’s west end, was torn down last summer — along with a sign touting the future development of ‘East Balfour Residences.’ 

As SooToday previously reported, RSG General Contracting filed a civil suit in Ontario Superior Court this past January, claiming $81,370 for services and materials provided — plus the same amount in damages for breach of contract — after completing demolition work and removing sewage infrastructure last year from 309 East Balfour Street for a group of companies from southern Ontario associated with Ferrari.

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James Hopkin

About the Author: James Hopkin

James Hopkin is a reporter for SooToday in Sault Ste. Marie
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