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Parking-lot ruling could cost community group thousands

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A city order to get rid of a downtown surface-parking lot may end up costing an African community group money.

This morning, council's downtown development committee voted to deny Arni Thorsteinson's appeal to allow an illegal surface parking lot at 370 Hargrave St. City officials said the 140-stall gravel surface parking lot violates the city's bylaws.

The committee gave Thorsteinson 90 days to apply for approval for a conditional use or variance to allow a parking lot on the site.

Thorsteinson had initially asked the committee for a two-year extension on the order, saying he plans to sell the lot to the African Canadian Foundation, which wants to build a community centre and apartment buildings on the site. He said it will cost about $400,000 to pave and improve the lot to meet the minimum city standards.

Chrispin Ntungo, secretary of African Canadian Foundation, said the order means the foundation will have to raise additional funds to purchase the land from Thorsteinson. Ntungo said the foundation has managed to raise $900,000 of the project's $7-million cost.

"He has to develop the land to meet the requirements of the city," Ntungo said. "That will cost, and increase the value of the land so when we eventually acquire it the bottom line will no longer be $7 million."

City property director Barry Thorgrimson said the order to remove the illegal surface lot expired in 2011 and "slipped through the cracks" for two years. He said Winnipeg has minimum standards for parking lots in the downtown which stipulate they must have a hard surface, adequate drainage, lighting and landscaping.

Thorgrimson said the department will work with Thorsteinson to get his application in, and planners will assess its merits and impacts on the downtown. He said there will be an impact to parking if the 140 stalls are eliminated.

Coun. Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge) said everyone supports the African community's project, and the committee was not trying to undermine the project.

"It's up to the person who has an illegal parking lot in the downtown to get the proper approvals and go through the process properly. We can't expect the city to disregard all the rules," she said.


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