Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Deal for Kapyong Barracks Site?

Kapyong Barracks

The base has been empty since 2004 and it was in 2009 that Vic Toews said that it was a done deal that the land was going from Department of Defence to Canada Lands for development. A number of First Nations cried foul and a judge agreed that consultations were necessary as part of Treaty 1 land settlements.

However, this was not the full victory that has been characterized this week by some in the media. The judge's decision was two-fold: He said that the federal government must negotiate in good faith with First Nations and because they hadn't, the feds had to pay the legal costs for both sides. The judge also told the First Nations that their expectation of the land being handed to them directly at no cost was not explicit in the treaty arrangements. He then said the group would have to come back to the court and argue their right to land as well. To be honest, a confusing result that no one could hang their hat on.

In the end, the court told both parties to negotiate a deal and if one could not be reached, the court would hear arguments again this December.

In short, no one knows what the court was about to decide.

The First Nations could have been told they had a chance to make a deal and better luck next time or the feds could have been told they were arguing in bad faith and a deal must be struck by a certain time. And I don't think either side wanted to find out what a judge thought.

The land was once valued at $8.5 million and presently costs $2 million a year to maintain. It is in disrepair and will only get worse. Add to the cost will be site clearance and remediation efforts. Want to know what that might be like? Ask IKEA developers who are in court about what CN Rail left for them.

In the end, it looks like the First Nations are considering an offer for half the land for an urban reserve. No one knows what part of the site is being talked about. It may be this is the more affordable option if the group is buying the land.

From the city of Winnipeg's perspective, they are interested in two things right away: They want to buy land for road expansion for three lanes in each direction on Kenaston. Second, they want to sign an agreement with any First Nation development that will pay for service agreements to the land. In other words, the same settlement that property tax would cover for road, water, sewer and the like.

Understandably, there are questions about what will go up on the land and what sort of traffic might be involved. It is safe to say that and development on First Nations land is likely to center on how much return on investment will be derived from it. And to that end, expect retail and residential and maybe a hotel/casino.

Some of the commentary over the years has centered on fear and racism over what will happen to the site. I think pressure will come from First Nations themselves to make sure the site does extremely well.

Let's see if this deal happens. Some hardliners on both sides may still scuttle the talks.

Here's hoping for a solution...

No comments: