Mayor Sam Katz and his executive committee overrode recommendations from the planning department and gave the go-ahead Wednesday for a massive new residential subdivision in the city's northwest corner.
During a three-hour-plus hearing, the senior committee listened to the recommendations and arguments from its planning staff and counter-positions from Terracon Development Ltd., which is planning to build a 593-unit subdivision on a 30-hectare site at the southwest corner of Jefferson Avenue and King Edward Street, to be known as Castlebury Meadows.
While city planners and Terracon agreed on most issues surrounding the subdivision, Terracon was concerned the planner's recommendations for the outstanding points would halt the project.
"I think the committee heard our side of the argument," Michael Falk, Terracon's development manager, said after the committee meeting. "Certainly, public works and the city administration had some valid points and we reached a balance."
The sticking points in the project included the planning department's recommendations that Terracon be solely responsible for upgrades to existing roadways, credit for unusable green space as parkland, the construction of a noise-attenuation barrier along the path of a proposed Chief Peguis Trail extension and widening a roadway through the heart of the project to accommodate Winnipeg Transit vehicles.
Falk said the conditions the city planners required would be cost-prohibitive, forcing Terracon to increase the price of homes from $300,000 to more than $600,000, making the project economically unfeasible.
After a break, the committee unanimously approved the project, with a series of amendments put forward by Coun. Russ Wyatt.
The package of rezoning amendments must get approval by city council, which is expected at its meeting later this month.
Falk said he expected construction would start by March next year.
The subdivision would include 226 single-family homes, 168 duplex units and 199 apartment units.
Falk said city staff knew nothing about the requirements for properly building a noise-attenuation barrier, adding building it now, before the expressway extension is built, would be a waste of money.
"We know the right way to do it," Falk said.
He also criticized the planning department's requirement that Terracon build at least one road through its project wide enough to accommodate Transit buses.
"I don't want to put (a bus route) through the middle of the development," he said.
On the cost of road upgrades, Falk said his company should only be required to pay 50 per cent of any needed improvements to roadways fronting its property.
City staff said it's estimated the new subdivision would result in the number of vehicles using existing roads increasing to more than 7,000 daily from 1,000, adding since Terracon was responsible for that increase, the company should cover the entire cost.
The Terracon project was also criticized by another development firm, which said Terracon's population figures were too low and its proposed playing field for the site inadequate.
David Palubeski, whose Lombard North firm built the nearby Waterford Green subdivision, said Terracon was projecting a subdivision population of about 1,200 to 1,400 residents, but Lombard's experience shows the more realistic figure would be more than 2,000 residents.
Palubeski said the playing field Terracon was proposing was too small for the number of people who would be living in Castlebury Meadows, adding those residents would rely on adjacent sport fields.
City parks officials said they conceded Terracon's playing field was too small. They said Terracon claimed it couldn't build a larger field based on the subdivision's configuration.