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North Dakota officials ask judge to dismiss lawsuit over highway closure during pipeline protests

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North Dakota officials have asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed over the five-month closure of a section of highway during the large protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline, saying they had both the authority and an obligation to do it.

The federal lawsuit brought by two members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and a reservation priest alleges that the closure of state Highway 1806 near the pipeline route north of the reservation unduly restricted travel and commerce and violated the free speech and religious rights of them and others. It seeks unspecified monetary damages from state officials, Morton County and TigerSwan, a North Carolina-based company that oversaw private security for the Texas-based pipeline developer, Energy Transfer Partners.

Attorneys for the county and the state officials, including Republican Gov. Doug Burgum, contend in a court filing dated Friday that the highway shutdown was warranted because of “mayhem” caused by some of the thousands of demonstrators who gathered in the area in 2016 and early 2017 to protest the $3.8 billion pipeline, which now moves North Dakota oil to Illinois.

“The criminal behaviour included trespassing, destruction of private property, vandalism, setting fire to multiple vehicles on the bridge, stampeding bison and shooting at law enforcement personnel in attempts to kill them, unlawfully blocking the highway, throwing Molotov cocktails and other projectiles at law enforcement, and evading and resisting arrest,” state Deputy Solicitor General James Nicolai wrote.

State officials closed a stretch of the highway just north of protest camps in October 2016 and didn’t reopen it until March 2017, after initial repairs to a bridge were completed and the protest camps were cleared out.

The highway is the main route between the reservation and Bismarck, the nearest large city. Plaintiffs allege that the closure was targeted at them and didn’t apply to pipeline workers, who were allowed to continue using that stretch of highway.

Nicolai and Shawn Grinolds, an attorney for Morton County, argue that at one point, the protesters, themselves, blocked the highway with hay bales and other objects and that for months, they ignored an evacuation notice issued by then-Gov. Jack Dalrymple. They argue that pipeline workers had a legitimate reason to use the highway and that blocking others from using it was not retaliatory.

“The plaintiffs’ peaceful protests were disrupted by a violent criminal faction that required responsible public officials to take necessary and appropriate steps to quell a criminal riot, protect private property from criminal activity and to ensure public safety,” Nicolai said.

TigerSwan asked to be dismissed as a defendant, arguing that it had nothing to do with the decision to close the road. Attorney Lynn Boughey also asked U.S. District Judge Dan Hovland to force the plaintiffs to pay the company’s attorney fees.

The three plaintiffs are reservation businesswoman Cissy Thunderhawk, pipeline opponent Waste’Win Young and the Rev. John Floberg of St. James’ Episcopal Church in Cannon Ball. They’re suing the county, its sheriff, Burgum and Dalrymple, and the heads of the state Transportation Department and Highway Patrol.

In addition to the monetary damages, the lawsuit seeks stricter rules for road closures in such instances and class-action status, meaning it would apply to all affected people, if granted.

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Montreal real-estate prices climbing much faster than Toronto or Vancouver: study

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MONTREAL — The cost of housing per square foot has skyrocketed in Montreal while other cities saw little change over the last year, according to a new national survey.

The study found that condominium prices in downtown Montreal are up 13.5 per cent from last year to, on average, $805 per square foot.

That’s not as high as other cities, but it’s catching up — and Montreal’s rate of growth is outpacing other major Canadian cities.

Toronto’s condo prices grew to $1083 per square foot, an increase of just under 10 per cent, according to the study. In Vancouver, where you can find some of Canada’s most expensive condo prices, rates are down 4 per cent to $1192 per square foot.

To make the comparisons, Canadian real estate giant Century 21 collected data from real estate boards across the country to calculate the home costs per square foot.

“It’s important to compare apple to apples,” said Todd Shyiak, the company’s vice president of operations.

Montreal’s rise was even more explosive for detached homes and townhouses.

Detached houses in Montreal’s downtown and southwest rose to $958 per square foot, 40 per cent up from last year.

“It’s wild,” said Century 21 broker Angela Langtry. She says the pandemic raised demand.

“People had a lot of time to figure out they don’t like the home they’re in,” she said. “They all want pools.”

There was a big spike in sales, she noted, following a pause in brokerage during the spring, at the peak of the pandemic.

Experts say the pandemic will push people into the suburbs as they search for affordable housing and home office space.

“A huge portion of our society’s housing needs changed overnight,” said Shyiak. People “no longer need to be 10 minutes from the office.”

He says that could mean less demand for condos in the future. “People want their own front door,” he said.

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Carttera buys prime downtown Montreal development site

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Carttera has acquired a prime downtown Montreal site at 1455 De La Montagne St. which will mark its third development on the thoroughfare.

“We think it’s probably one of the best, if not the best, locations in the whole city,” Carttera founding partner Jim Tadeson told RENX. “We’ve had great success on De La Montagne.”

The two earlier projects are: L’Avenue, a building with 393 residential units, 84,000 square feet of office space and 34,000 square feet of retail that was developed with Broccolini and occupied in 2017; and Arbora Residences, a two-phase development with 434 rental and condominium units in three buildings being built in partnership with Oxford Properties.

Thursday’s latest acquisition, for $48.5 million from 630745 Ontario, is a 31,750-square-foot surface parking lot with flexible mixed-use zoning on the corner of De La Montagne and De Maisonneuve Boulevard West.

The site is near the Vogue Hotel Montreal Downtown, the new Four Seasons Hotel Montreal and high-end retail.

“It’s zoned for up to 203,000 square feet of density, which we’re going to take advantage of,” said Tadeson. “Our vision for the site is a condominium project with some retail.”

Since there is no demolition required and no heritage issues to contend with, Toronto-based Carttera plans to move ahead quickly with the luxury project.

It’s in the concept design phase and Tadeson said it could take six months or more before it’s prepared to make a submission to the city.

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Montreal Has the Hottest Real Estate Market in Canada Right Now

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If you thought Toronto’s real estate market was on fire, it’s time for a second take, because the market in Montreal is the hottest in all of Canada right now.

A newly-released annual report from CENTURY 21 Canada reveals that, following an early-spring decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sales numbers are bouncing back and house prices across the country are maintaining their strength. The study compared the price per square foot of properties sold between January 1 and June 30 of this year, compared to the same period last year.

In Toronto and Vancouver, unsurprisingly, prices remain high. But while regions across the country are seeing varied stories when it comes to their housing market fluctuations, Montreal stands out — there, prices have increased dramatically since 2019. While the numbers remain lower than Toronto and Vancouver, that housing market is proving to be the country’s strongest right now.

In Quebec’s largest city, prices have increased significantly since last year, particularly in the downtown detached house and townhouse markets. For example, the price of a detached house in Montreal’s downtown and southwest rose 42.14% to $958 per square foot, while townhouses went up 44% to $768, and condos, 13.55% to $805. Comparatively, in Toronto and Vancouver, prices saw more modest increases or, in some cases, even declines.

“Even though real estate in Quebec was not considered an essential service, we have seen strong demand and a jump in prices in 2020,” said Mohamad Al-Hajj, owner of CENTURY 21 Immo-Plus in Montreal.

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