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Will it sink or swim?

Councillor to make pitch water-park vote should be delayed

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The public backlash against the city's proposed water-park subsidy has prompted St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal to make a last-minute effort to delay a council vote on the plan.

This morning, council is scheduled to debate a proposal to sell the downtown surface lot known as Parcel Four to Alberta hotel chain Canalta, which plans to build a 50,000-square-foot water park, 250 hotel rooms and a 450-stall parkade at the site, which sits at the southwest corner of Waterfront Drive and William Stephenson Way.

The plan calls for Winnipeg to sell the land for $6 million and give Canalta a $7-million grant in exchange for $700,000 worth of admission credits for low-income families every year for the next 25 years.

Council is deeply divided over the proposal, with seven councillors each lined up for and against the plan earlier this week. Only Old Kildonan Coun. Devi Sharma has not stated which way she intends to vote today.

Vandal voted in favour of the plan at executive policy committee last week but is backing away from that position in response to feedback from his constituents. On Tuesday, he said council should hold off on the Canalta proposal due to the lack of detail about several aspects of the plan.

"There's clearly a lack of information that's out there about what it's going to look like and whether it's a good thing for The Forks," Vandal said.

"We don't have a preliminary design on what this could look like, we don't have anything near to a public-access agreement that's completed and we haven't done consultation on this."

Vandal said he's received a large number of emails and phone calls from concerned constituents who say The Forks is not the best location for a water park and not enough is known about the plan. Some people have even phoned him at home, he said.

In response, he plans to ask council to hold off on a water-park vote until the hotel chain provides site plans for all buildings on Parcel Four, completes a public-access agreement and conducts consultations with area stakeholders, including The Forks and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

If Vandal's motion is approved, the Canalta proposal would be referred to council's downtown development committee. He declined to say whether he would vote for or against the water-park proposal if his motion fails.

"That's something I'm going to (keep) to myself until we debate it on the floor of council," Vandal said.

Vandal is not alone among EPC members who are willing to reconsider their support for the Canalta plan. Council finance chairman Scott Fielding (St. James-Brooklands) said he's open to amendments because his constituents have raised concerns about the size of the water park, the esthetics of the building and the $7-million city subsidy.

Other members of EPC are holding firm. Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck said the more she learns about the financial benefits of the proposal, including tax revenue, the more she's convinced it's a good deal.

Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt (Transcona) said few other downtown locations can house a complex of such magnitude and suggested some people opposed to a water park across from the museum are an "artsy fartsy crowd."

Mayor Sam Katz has recused himself from the vote since he is the majority owner of the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball club, which plays at Shaw Park, just north of Parcel Four.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Where they stand

COUNCILLORS' voting intentions on the Canalta proposal. Since Mayor Sam Katz has recused himself from the vote, the plan needs eight votes to pass in a 15-member council.

 

Up for grabs

1. Devi Sharma (Old Kildonan)

2. Dan Vandal (St. Boniface)

 

In favour/ leaning in favour

 

1. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan)

2. Scott Fielding (St. James-Brooklands)

3. Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo)

4. Justin Swandel (St. Norbert)

5. Thomas Steen (Elmwood-East Kildonan)

6. Russ Wyatt (Transcona)

 

Opposed

1. Ross Eadie (Mynarski)

2. Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry)

3. Brian Mayes (St. Vital)

4. Grant Nordman (St. Charles)

5. John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry)

6. Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas)

7. Harvey Smith

(Daniel McIntyre)

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 25, 2012 A3

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