R. M. Abandons Fort Ellice Development

– Philip Fafard

“We’ve told our lawyers to please just settle whatever costs have been added up and we’re done, we’re out. It’s been a traumatic four years”

Citing costs, the R. M. of Ellice and the village of St. Lazare have pulled the plug on plans to build a tourist attraction around the site of former fur trading post Fort Ellice.

“We started this project as an honest attempt to improve the community, but now we can’t go on,” said Philip Fafard, deputy mayor of the village of St. Lazare, and one of the strongest proponents of the plan.

“We’ve told our lawyers to please just settle whatever costs have been added up and we’re done, we’re out. It’s been a traumatic four years.”

Despite winning a expropriation battle in 2007 with the owners of a 288-acre parcel of land on which the historic site is situated, the village and the R. M. were forced to abandon the project in September. The restored Fort Ellice site was to be a major link in the Assiniboine Development Corridor, a partnership of 30 R. M. s and First Nations communities to promote historic sites in the region via self-guided tours.

Marcel Fouillard, who

speaks for his father Arthur, the owner of the disputed property, said that he and his family are relieved now that the fight over the site of historic Fort Ellice is finally over.

Title to the land has been in the hands of the R. M. since the fall of 2005, and the Fouillards are eager to get it back.

“It means that the land will be transferred back to us and as far as they are concerned, their project is dead,” he said. “It’s kind of a tough emotional time for them and for

us. No doubt we’re satisfied with the conclusion, but there are some wounds that have been opened up that will take a long, long time to heal.”

The family lost a legal appeal to retain ownership of the land near St. Lazare in 2007 in a case which many observers claimed set an ominous precedent that would allow R. M. s to seize land under the Expropriation Act for municipal purposes, including economic development.

Even though the Fouillards will be getting their land back, the “land grab” law should still be cause for concern for farmers, he added.

“If the legislation is not changed, someone who has got money and influence within council can basically get the council to expropriate for them,” he said. “That’s the danger of this legislation.”

Despite the rising cost of gas, and the dismal economy south of the border keeping tourists at home this past summer, Fafard was still upbeat about tourism as an engine of economic growth for rural areas. [email protected]

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