Manitoba’s First Nations are closer than ever to a deal to create an urban reserve out of the former Kapyong Barracks, Sagkeeng Chief Donavan Fontaine said Tuesday.
"By the end of this week, we should have an offer," Fontaine said. "We’re closer than we’ve ever been before and at the last minute, there could be a deal breaker, you never know but I’m cautiously optimistic."
Seven First Nations represented by Treaty One took Ottawa to court over the 160 acres of prime city real estate when the barracks were decommissioned and the federal government announced the land would be put up for sale.
That was in 2005. Since then, the case has been stuck in the courts and many drivers have been stuck in traffic because Kenaston Boulevard, which runs beside the Kapyong Barracks, could not be expanded to meet growing traffic needs while there were legal claims.
The issue of a traffic bottleneck near Kapyong is expected to become an even bigger headache because Kenaston is a major traffic artery leading to the IKEA big-box store, which opens Wednesday at the intersection with Sterling Lyon Parkway.
The First Nations claim to Kapyong comes from treaty rights to federal land in their traditional territories that had been declared surplus in return for unfulfilled land claims.
"Neither side wants to go back to court," said Fontaine, adding there is pressure to come to an out-of-court settlement soon. The next court date is Dec. 7.
He said First Nations lawyers at the table with the federal government have signalled the chiefs to expect good news soon.
"By the end of this week, we should be hearing something," Fontaine said.
He said a deal would mean the First Nations would have a partnership with Ottawa on development of the site.
Plans for the site could call for a mixed commercial and residential development with the possibility of green space.
"Economic development, definitely," said Fontaine describing the site as a potential hub of activity. "And housing and green space is a possibility."
In January, city council’s public works committee voted in favour of a preliminary design that would see Kenaston eventually expand to six lanes from four between Ness and Taylor avenues.
The plan is to widen the roadway on the west side by acquiring land from Kapyong Barracks and on the east by acquiring about 50 homes.
Public works director Brad Sacher said current standards suggest a road be widened to six lanes when traffic counts exceed more than 35,000 vehicles per day. Sacher said volumes on Kenaston have been upwards of 50,000 vehicles a day for decades, and recent data show between 60,000 and 70,000 vehicles travel Kenaston daily.