Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Industries oppose development

New Transcona neighbourhood on hold as city seeks compromise

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Dennis Smerchanski says people wouldn't be happy living near his company, which runs around the clock.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Dennis Smerchanski says people wouldn't be happy living near his company, which runs around the clock. Photo Store

A plan for a new residential neighbourhood in Transcona has run into opposition from nearby businesses, which say homes shouldn't be built close to heavy industry.

A public hearing at city hall earlier this week for the Transcona North precinct plan was adjourned without a decision after the two main industries -- Border Chemicals and Griffin Wheel -- raised objections.

"Heavy industrial (firms) are just not compatible with residential development," said Dennis Smerchanski, general manager of Border Chemical. "Our facilities run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, truck and train traffic and the residents just wouldn't be happy with it.

"We're trying to stay away from that so we don't have problems later."

The Transcona North precinct plan outlines development guidelines for growth on 174 hectares of vacant land between Day Street and the Perimeter Highway.

The plan is driven by North Grassie Properties, which wants to develop 630 single family homes, 150 multi-family units and a small-scale commercial development on the eastern portion of that vacant land -- on either side of Redonda Street between Gunn Road and the Transcona Trail.

The plan includes a 4,000-foot buffer zone between North Grassie Properties' residential project and the two biggest industrial operations, Border Chemical and Griffin Wheel.

The two companies employ about 300 people and have been in operation for more than 50 years. Both firms are considered high-hazard industrial operations, with provincial environmental licensing.

Development within the buffer zone is restricted to light industrial uses and storage space.

The civic administration endorsed the precinct plan, describing it as conforming with the city's overall planning policies and appropriate for the area.

The proposed 4,000-foot buffer zone was cited as the most extensive in the city.

While a consultant's report said the two firms were largely supportive of the precinct plan, the two companies dropped the equivalent of a bomb on the project at the public hearing.

Smerchanski told the hearing the residential development is not compatible with his operation and the other industries in the neighborhood and encouraged the committee to reject it.

Smerchanski said the explosion and fire at Speedway International in 2012 highlighted the problems associated with residential development too close to hazardous industries, adding eliminating the residential component from the Transcona North plan ensures the city isn't setting new residents up for a potential disaster.

Griffin Wheel, represented by lawyer Charles Chappell, said it had no objection to the precinct plan but wanted the buffer zone -- which begins from the firm's smoke stack -- to begin at the property line, which would effectively eliminate a large portion of the residential development and the commercial and multi-family components of North Grassie's plan.

"They're going to lose some land (available for residential development)," Chappell said. "I never really measured it out as to how much it is. So they don't get residential. They're still able to develop their land (for light industrial uses)."

The committee adjourned the issue to its next meeting May 20 and instructed planning staff to meet with the three companies to see if a compromise could be worked out.

North Grassie Properties has been working on the residential component of the plan for seven years. It had been to city hall twice before for the project, the last time two years ago when it was instructed to work with Border Chemical and Griffin Wheel.

A company spokesman for North Grassie Properties declined to comment on the positions taken by the two industrial firms.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 25, 2014 B1

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