City hall is taking steps to enable dozens of empty residential lots to be developed for housing.
The properties were singled out in a detailed planning study that found 112 lots in three clusters across the city that cannot be developed now because of a lack of municipal services, mostly open drainage and gravel roads.
"This would allow orderly completion of older neighbourhoods," property and development chairman Jeff Browaty said as he defended the plan.
The clusters were found in three communities: North Kildonan (33 lots), Transcona (31 lots), and Charleswood (48 lots).
An administrative report said the planning department had rejected applications to develop such lots in the past but their advice was often over-ruled.
The policy change is proposed by the administration to ensure the city’s planning policies are consistent.
Council ultimately approved the proposal, which includes holding a public hearing on the merits of the policy change, but it didn’t happen without a debate.
On the floor of council, Coun. Paula Havixbeck said the plan was premature and wanted it referred to committee where it could be included in a comprehensive review of the city’s planning guidelines.
"I don’t see this as a progressive strategy to address the city’s growth," Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) said, adding the city’s existing five-year planning guidelines had extensive community consultations and shouldn’t be tampered with without a similar detailed public review.
Havixbeck’s comments provoked harsh words from Browaty – followed by an apology – who said she was being hypocritical because she had recently promoted an infill application in a similar situation in her own ward.
The debate drew in councillors Brian Mayes (St. Vital) and Dan Vandal (St. Boniface) and Mayor Katz and lasted for about 12 minutes.
While the report represented an extensive review by city planners of properties across the city and a detailed document, this was the first debate by councillors on the issue.
The report did not go to the property and development committee but directly to Katz’s executive policy committee where, on April 16, Browaty praised it for 80 seconds before it was approved without any questions or comments from other EPC member.
The only questions about the policy change at the April 16 EPC meeting were raised by David Sanders, a private citizen who regularly attends council and committee meetings.
Sanders said councillors should follow the current planning guidelines and not try to justify developments on land which is not ready for more development.
"I seriously question whether we should be adding to the traffic and storm drainage load on these substandard services now," Sanders said. "The City of Winnipeg has created some very impressive plans and policies. Unfortunately, sometimes council seems all too willing to make decisions which run counter to those plans and policies."