Domtar gets warning from NCC
‘Any demolition needs to come to us’
The National Capital Commission has warned paperand-pulp giant Domtar not to raze any more of its buildings on federal land on the Chaudière islands, unless the company has cleared it with the federal agency.
The warning follows the demolition last week of the century-old Groundwood Pulp Mill, which the Montreal-based company said was collapsing and needed to be torn down.
“One thing I can tell you is that we have made it clear to Domtar that if (a building) is on federal land, any demolition needs to come to us,” chief executive Marie Lemay told the Citizen.
“The NCC didn’t do anything about the demolition because we didn’t know about it,” Lemay said.
Domtar, which owns the bulk of the land and property on the Chaudière Falls islands, caused a stir last week when they tore down the old mill.
The company said that after the north wall of the building collapsed in September, they applied to the City of Ottawa for a demolition permit, which they received in December. Domtar owns the building, which has been vacant and deteriorating since the 1960s.
Despite being 100 years old, it had not been recognized by the city or the federal government as a heritage property, and was therefore fair game.
However, the NCC has responsibility for whatever goes up or down on federal land, and because the old mill sits on land leased from the federal Public Works department, the commission should have been consulted before any demolition. Nobody from Domtar notified the NCC. It wasn’t until after the demolition began that surprised passersby, including NCC employees, noticed what was going on, and brought it to the knowledge of officials.
Lemay said that the complexity of the ownership of the land and property on the islands may have led to the confusion. She says Domtar may not have known the proper process, especially since it was an emergency. But, she adds, they know now, and the NCC expects to be informed if any such action is contemplated in the future.
“When this happened, somebody said ‘is this the beginning of demolition of heritage property?’ The answer is ‘No,’ ” said Lemay.
“Domtar on their land can do what they want to do, but they now are made aware that if it is on federal land, they do have to come to us.”
The demolition of a building that many consider a part of the industrial history and heritage of the city has once again raised questions about the future of the islands.
The NCC considers the area to be of significant national interest, part of what it calls National Interest Land Mass (NILM). The NCC has long coveted the islands, which were a key part of planner Jacques Gréber’s blueprint for the capital. Since Domtar acquired the property from E.B. Eddy in 1998, the NCC has been talking to the company to see if it could acquire them. Numerous plans have been drawn up to transform the Chaudière Islands, which are on the Ottawa side of the river. Under the late NCC chief executive Jean Pigott, there were plans to turn the islands into a major attraction, but without ownership, nothing could be done.
Lemay said talks are no longer going on with Domtar.
“We’ve done a lot of work on this property, we’ve looked at it but at this point, there’s nothing happening. There’s no negotiations,” she said.
“These are all NILM properties, so if they do become available, and if the money is available, we should try to acquire them. We understand this property well, we understand all of the complexity but you know, money is needed to acquire to acquire them.”