Walmart's plan to build a big-box mall on Winnipeg's doorsteps in East St. Paul has angered local residents.
The plan would use residential Winnipeg streets as the only access.
A public hearing is set for Nov. 20 for an amendment to the East St. Paul development plan that would change the zoning designation on a 47-acre parcel of land tucked into the southwest corner of the Perimeter Highway and Lagimodiere Boulevard, from mixed use (residential/institutional) to commercial.
The province refused to allow East St. Paul and the developer, SmartCentres, access to the site from either the Perimeter or Lagimodiere, leaving the only access from two-lane residential streets in North Kildonan.
'That additional traffic is not good for our community. It's a huge safety concern'
"That additional traffic is not good for our community. It's a huge safety concern," area resident Cathy Cox said. "Those roads were never, ever to be used for access to a shopping centre."
The project would be built in two phases: Phase 1 involves 200,000 square feet of commercial space, including a Walmart Supercentre and nine retail outlets, to be built on 17 acres in 2014; Phase 2 involves an additional 145,000 square feet of commercial space or 14.5 acres of residential homes, to be built in 2019.
A spokesman for the Selkirk and District planning area, which regulates planning matters in East St. Paul, said the amendment is the first in a series of steps necessary before the project can go ahead.
Cox said the project would be a significant tax windfall for East St. Paul but Winnipeg would endure additional road maintenance and safety and traffic concerns.
Cox organized a team of about 20 residents who handed out 2,500 flyers listing concerns about the project throughout the adjoining neighbourhoods on Saturday.
"To use a two-lane residential street doesn't make any sense to us," Cox said.
North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty said he condemned the plan when it surfaced in the summer. At the time, the only road access was via an extension of Gateway Road to the border with East St. Paul. At the time, Browaty threatened to blockade Gateway to prevent access to the city street from East St. Paul.
Browaty said SmartCentres has developed another potential road access, securing private land in Winnipeg behind a new strip mall off Headmaster Row at Lagimodiere, which would be turned into a roadway that would connect to the project from DeVries Road.
Browaty said SmartCentres would build the road and then turn it over to Winnipeg as a public roadway.
However, Browaty said while the second route avoids the residential area farther west along Headmaster, the proposed two-lane road and intersection are likely technically deficient and not suitable for the large trucks that will supply the shopping centre.
Browaty said the only way he would support the new commercial centre is if East St. Paul could secure access off either Lagimodiere or the Perimeter.
The City of Winnipeg planning department wrote a letter to the Selkirk planning authority, stating it believes the project is inconsistent with East St. Paul's development plan and a detriment to the city.
East St. Paul Mayor Lawrence Morris refused to discuss the project, saying as a member of the planning authority, he is prevented from taking a position before the Nov. 20 hearing.
However, Browaty said East St. Paul council has instructed its CAO to negotiate an agreement with Winnipeg in which the city would get a portion of the tax revenue as compensation for road maintenance.
The project is also gaining opposition from residents in East St. Paul just west of the project site.
"They don't want that traffic on residential streets," East St. Paul Coun. Charles Posthumus said, adding homeowners on Foxgrove Avenue and the new subdivision south of the Perimeter are opposed to the project.