Why Zibi is on shaky ground

Why Zibi is on shaky ground
Posted on February 18, 2016 | Freeing Chaudière Falls and its Islands | Written on February 18, 2016
Letter type:

Author's Note:

Author's Note:

Dream Windmill’s 20-year condo project be on hold for 20 years in Ontario because the Zibi corporations do not own a parcel of land on two islands that Algonquin First Nations are claiming as a sacred and spiritual site.

A Feb. 11, 2016 news release outlining Dream Unlimited Corp's 2015 financial state contains this paragraph [bold emphasis added]:

"In the twelve months ended December 31, 2015, a partnership between Dream and Windmill Development Group Ltd. ("Dream Windmill"), acquired 22 acres of land located on the former Domtar lands along the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec, for the purpose of developing a mixed-use master planned community to be marketed under the name "Zibi". Dream Windmill has an additional 15 acres of directly adjacent lands under contract which it expects to acquire in 2016, pending certain approvals. The project concept plan for the 37 acres includes over 3 million square feet of density, with 2,000 residential units and over 1 million square feet of commercial space. In the fourth quarter of 2015, Zibi's launched its second building, a six-storey midrise on Chaudiére Island that overlooks the Ottawa River named 'Kanaal'. At at December 31, 2015, the two condominium projects within Zibi were over 35% pre-sold."

“Pending certain approvals” refers to rezoning by the City of Ottawa, as set out in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) dated July 2014 and now public thanks to an individual’s Access to Information request (see full PDF below).

The MOU between the National Capital Commission (NCC), Domtar Corp. and Windmill Development Group involves the transfer of federal lands to Windmill, with agreement from Domtar, which held long-term leases on those lands from the federal government.

Based on the MOU, the NCC, as a federal agency, continues to be involved in the sale (or transfer) of lands from Domtar to Windmill. As a Crown agency, it also has a duty to consult with Indigenous groups--a duty it should not ignore, based on recent court decisions in support of Indigenous claims.

The MOU reveals that:

1) The NCC and Public Works and Government Services Canada are involved in sale of property to Windmill. The parcel of land covered by the MOU exists on Albert and Chaudière Islands.

2) The MOU states that rezoning of the lands by the City of Ottawa is a precursor to the sale (page 7 of the MOU) and that “Aboriginal consultations” must be held.

This MOU has left Windmill Development and its corporate partner Dream Unlimited hamstrung. They cannot begin construction on Albert or Chaudière Islands until rezoning of the islands by the City of Ottawa is official. Rezoning by Ottawa will trigger the transfer of lands, and this rezoning will not be in force until all rezoning appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) have been settled.

A motion for leave to appeal the OMB’s Nov. 2015 decision to dismiss five 2015 appeals over rezoning of the islands will be heard in an Ontario court on Feb. 24, 2016. If the judge does not grant leave to appeal next week, the appellants intend to appeal that ruling. In other words, the rezoning of Chaudière and Albert islands could be before the courts for a long time.

Meanwhile, Ottawa's local media has been feeding its readers a message that “shovels are in the ground” for Zibi, while not stating that this is true only for the proposed condo site in Gatineau, where municipal approvals are in place and where no federal land transfer is outstanding.

Examples of recent news stories that relate to Zibi in Gatineau include:

Dec 10 2015: Ottawa Sun: This article mentions the resolution by Algonquin chiefs passed the day before by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), but fails to mention that Zibi proponents were at the AFN meeting and allegedly attempting to influence the chiefs' voting.

Dec 10 2015: Ottawa Citizen: This article chronicles how Windmill dumped a pile of soil in Gatineau and staged a photo op--the day after an AFN resolution by Algonquin chiefs passed.

Jan 27 2016: Ottawa Citizen: How can the City of Gatineau's approval be news when Zibi in Gatineau already “broke ground” in December?

What is the media’s agenda? It appears to be supporting Dream Windmill by publishing pieces that are more public relations than journalism. Actions of this sort can only erode the public's tenuous trust in what used to be a noble profession.