Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Many unanswered questions on water-park proposal

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Coun. Dan Vandal's April 21 letter, Forks water park will be positive for Winnipeg, conveniently sidesteps a number of significant issues of great concern to many Winnipeggers.

Most people agree that having a water park in Winnipeg would be a positive thing. However, what council must decide this week is whether this is the right proposal, in the right location and under the right terms.

The land in question across from the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is likely the most valuable piece the city owns.

The property has not been put out to public offer, so we don't know what other proposals might have come forward if it were.

Downtown stakeholders are not in a position to speak their true thoughts on the proposal as they rely on the city's favour, and, anyway, it is pretty clear no one asked them to be part of the discussion.

Council is being asked to approve this without even seeing a basic conceptual sketch, which is surprising for a project of this magnitude. There are fewer details required for this proposal than if you want to get approval for a suburban driveway. And there is $7 million of public money on the line.

Design review and the plan approval processes are not tools that can answer the larger fundamental land-use questions. Neither can these tools ensure the level of aesthetics required for its location across from a world-class piece of architecture.

Once this is approved, there is only so much the design review process can do to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear -- especially if the developer pleads, as they often do, that the requirements are cost prohibitive.

There is the question of why a 50,000-square-foot water park was accepted as a bid even though the specifications in the general water-park expression of interest were 55,000 to 70,000 square feet. (The previous Canad Inns proposal at Polo Park was 66,000 square feet of indoor space.)

There are many unanswered questions for councillors who must vote on this matter and getting answers has been nearly impossible.

According to a letter from developer Canalta Hotels, published on the city website, there is an undisclosed group of "local investors" involved. When questioned at the downtown committee, the city administration asserted that they did not know the identity of these investors. This is knowledge that council should have prior to a vote on the issue.

JENNY GERBASI

Winnipeg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 24, 2012 A7

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