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SFX condo proposal not shelved yet

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The fate of a proposed condominium development on the site of the former Medicine Rock Café remains in limbo.

Developers Norm and Peggy Van Elslander have proposed demolishing the former cafe and and building a multi-unit condo complex on the site.

The Van Elslanders submitted a plan to the RM’s council to build a 54-unit complex on the property last September.

Councillors rejected the plan at a public hearing last November, saying they felt the development was "too large and too intrusive to the existing ambience of the village," according to minutes of the meeting.

Winnipeg’s LM Architectural Group revised the original condo plan and presented a second plan that included 60 units.

A second public hearing for the revised plan was held on May 9. Several residents spoke out in opposition to the application.

At a May 22 council meeting, councillors voted against a second reading of the rezoning application that is required in order for the condo development to proceed.

Representatives from the architectural firm and Stevenson Advisers, a company offering land development services, met with the RM’s environmental development committee on July 11 to discuss the community’s concerns and ways of dealing with them. The developers later said in an email they are prepared to reduce the number of units to 40 and to meet the municipal height restrictions.

The Van Elslanders attended an Aug. 21 meeting of council at which time Peggy Van Elslander indicated the couple still wants to continue with the condo plan. They did not respond to requests for an interview.

The councillors now have to decide whether the development requires approval of a rezoning or conditional use application. They deferred a decision on the matter until a Sept. 11 meeting.

Another public hearing will be required and councillors could use a development agreement to ensure that the project meets their specifications.

Area resident Dwayne Clark, who lives near the site, said he thinks council should reject the new application.

"This proposal has been turned down twice already," he said.

Clark and wife Pamela moved to a property in the RM of St. Francois Xavier next to an oxbow lake almost three years ago. Even though the house they bought needed some attention, they wanted to raise their four children in the country.

"I’ve always liked this area," Clark said.

They are now sharing their renovated house with the guests who come to stay at their Assiniboine Trail Guest House. "We’ve had a really successful year," Clark said.

The Medicine Rock Café was already closed when the Clarks bought their house, but they thought it could reopen as a restaurant or that someone might renovate it for use as a private residence.

"It’s a beautiful building," he said.

At the public rezoning hearing last November, Clark presented a petition signed by 200 local residents opposing the development.

Clark said he had no problem collecting signatures on the petition.

"I just wanted people to see and know what was going on," he said.

In his presentation, Clark pointed out that the revised development proposal had a higher number of units than the first proposal did.

"The architect’s plan looks like something that you’d see built in St. Vital," he said.

Clark said he’s not against development, but wants to preserve the beauty of the area. He has suggested using the cafe building as an interpretive centre.

Reeve Roger Poitras said the municipal government could not afford to expropriate the property.

"The cost would be at least one year’s general tax revenue," he said during the Aug. 21 council meeting.

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