“The old world, the fledgling nation, the castle and the mayor”: right of reply

Following the publication of our series of articles entitled “The Old World, the Start-up Nation, the Castle and the Mayor“, today we received a request for a right of reply from Mr. Xavier Aubry, manager of the company Zaz-Ventures, promoter of the Da Vinci Labs project, subject of our articles.
In order to enlighten our readers about this project, we publish it here in full.

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Right of Reply Mr. Xavier Aubry

In the Château Louise de La Vallière project:

– this is a project from the heart, where we invested all our capital between 2018 and 2022, knowing that we would never be able to recover it (incidentally, the rehabilitation of a castle is never profitable).

– the castle was in particular in need of serious conservation works (facades, roofs, interiors, energy renovation) and none of its previous owners had been able to carry them out.

– it was necessary to find an economic model for the castle, in order to ensure its long-term sustainability.

– there are several models (partial opening to the public for visits, organization of weddings or events or even hotels and restaurants) and this is the third one we chose.

– there is no “château-business” here, it is simply a matter of making this project independent of private (or public) subsidies in the future.

– the castle park contains bicentennial oaks and Lebanese cedars (which we asked to be classified as remarkable trees) and 3 ha of ornamental garden that we recreated (because there was only one vacant lot left).

– we have invested heavily in building insulation work, installing double glazing and implementing a reversible heat pump system (instead of diesel heating), in order to reduce energy consumption (and consequently the footprint of carbon) of the domain by more than 40%.

– we have implemented a wastewater treatment system by lagooning, which has the advantage of not using energy or chemicals, at the same time that we have developed a new biotope where plants (reedbeds) serve as habitat and food for different faunas (birds, amphibians, insects), which contributes to increasing the biodiversity of the property.

In the Da Vinci Labs project:

– the design of the building is a research center and incubator for environmental purposes (the building has 1250m2 on the ground, equivalent to 4000m2 on 3 levels, including a basement).

– the land approached to host this project is located 480m from the castle, on the edge of the estate (but within the ABF perimeter of 500m).

– the building was designed to disappear in the middle of this terrain, under the canopy of trees, and in no case would it be visible from the castle.

– the discussion with the ABF was always constructive, not only about the castle rehabilitation project, which the DRAC supported from the beginning, but also about the creation of the Da Vinci Labs.

– it was the ABF that indicated its preference for one of the two plots of the estate that are not part of the classified wooded area (the plot adjoining the D55).

– it was the DDT, by order of the mayor, who sent the municipality of Reugny the procedure to follow for compliance with the PLU.

– it was also the DDT that expressed in February 2022 the need to give credibility to the project, which at the time did not seem substantial enough.

– the director of DDT thus recommended joining research projects funded by the European Commission, which would validate the scientific and economic nature of the project

– we followed this recommendation and obtained the agreement of the European Commission at the end of 2022 to start 4 research projects in the disciplines we wanted to explore

– an example: the SWIFTT project that uses artificial intelligence and data from the Galileo satellite to monitor the evolution of forests in relation to climate risk

– the costs of this project are 70% funded by the European Commission and 30% by Da Vinci Labs in equity, includes French partners such as the GCF, which manages more than 2M ha of forests

– support for the project goes far beyond local elected officials, and it would have been more accurate to use this photograph (with a little more diversity!) that shows academic actors from Tours and Orléans present at our presentation event (for example, we support the establishment of a master’s degree in quantum technologies at the University of Tours, initiated by two research professors)

On environmental issues:

– we are fully aware of the environmental issues and the legal framework for the creation of a project of this type.

– we banned hunting in 2018 throughout the estate and made this place an OLP refuge with a fauna and flora management plan that we strictly apply.

– I myself carried out, with LPO Touraine, 12 avifaunistic inventories between the beginning of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, as well as a study of arboreal bats in the forest.

– the plot under study is not no way a listed wooded area, but agricultural land adjacent to ancient forest.

– the plot under study was a vacant lot, before being recently reforested (in the 2000s) with a central clearing and bridle paths.

– the plot under study is subject to LPO support and a flora and fauna management plan.

– the plot under study is currently the subject of a request for compliance with the PLU, with several environmental studies having been carried out there by the municipality of Reugny to examine the process.

– the municipality of Reugny, in accordance with the Climate and Resilience law of 2021, follows the principle of “zero net artificialization”: in the PLU modification project, land currently suitable for construction would be returned to nature to compensate for the passage of a agricultural land in construction zone.

– the building itself was designed to be exemplary in terms of sustainable development with the production of renewable geothermal and photovoltaic energy, materials of biological origin, low carbon footprint (no greenwashing here, because environmental technologies and their financing are our core business) .
– finally, if the ongoing environmental studies (or the forthcoming public inquiry) turn out to be negative, we have already identified two alternative sites (both buildable) in the Center-Val de Loire region (but not in the municipality of Reugny) .

On the resignation of the mayor of Indre-et-Loire:

– we do not understand your resignation and we cannot believe that your departure is linked (in any way) to the Da Vinci Labs project or to the Reugny town hall.

– we have never met with the mayor in the 18 months this project has been discussed, but our interactions with the administrative services (DDT, ABF, DRARI) have always been constructive.

– Currently, the environmental studies are still ongoing, and the request for compliance with the PLU has not yet been submitted, so the location of the site remains to be defined.

– the media frenzy we are the target of is incomprehensible, given the commitments we have assumed and demonstrated, with regard to the protection of the cultural and natural heritage of the La Vallière site in Reugny.

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