It took more than a decade of meetings, but the city is close to having a new bylaw to protect historical buildings and other heritage structures.
The historical resources bylaw, intended to take effect June 1, would see a listing of the features of a building the city aims to protect replacing the current system, which lists buildings from grades one to three, with three requiring the lowest protection. The current bylaw was enacted in 1977.
Jennifer Hansell, the city's senior urban planner, said having three grades of protection is ambiguous and the new system will "be more of a level playing field" and allow the city to protect more than just buildings.
Hansell said it could include parks, cemeteries and bridges.
The bylaw was approved by the civic committee on downtown development, heritage and riverbank management on Monday. It next goes to the city's executive policy committee before going to city council for a vote.
Another change would allow the public to sit in on meetings of the historical buildings committee, with the agendas published online, but citizens would not be able to state their views until a recommendation reached the standing committee.
Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, chairwoman of the historical buildings committee, said it took 12 years of meetings and public hearings to get the new bylaw rolling.
"It really is a lot clearer now for building owners," she said.
"The owners of the building will know what elements are protected. If it is designated, then it is valuable."
Cindy Tugwell, Heritage Winnipeg's executive director, said she's pleased with the new bylaw.
"With the (current) bylaw, councillors would say 'we'll save a grade 1 building but a grade 3, we really don't care,' " Tugwell said.
"This takes away the grading and forces the city to put down the character-defining elements. It needs to be what is it about this building. To me, the advantageous part is getting the city to identify these elements.
"I see this as a renewed opportunity to bring forward heritage."
Tugwell said the new bylaw could have helped with some past controversial decisions, including building a condominium next to the St. Boniface Museum.
"Had the vacant lot next to the St. Boniface Museum been designated as protected green space, it could have been protected under this bylaw," she said.