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Fire hall changes irk residents
Recent changes to the site plan of the new Station No. 11 fire hall in St. James has left a ringing in the ears of nearby residents.
Last week, city fire chief Reid Douglas and Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service project manager Christine Friesen appeared before the Assiniboia community committee seeking approval to move the location of the station from the back end of the property near Century Street up to the front of the site near Portage Avenue.
The committee approved the changes following a two-hour public hearing, a move city officials say will increase visibility of the station, improve traffic sight lines and reduce the overall footprint of the station by about 600 square feet.
"It’s a technicality we need to see happen," Douglas said.
However, Riverbend Crescent resident Katherine Thiesenhausen was disappointed the fire department didn’t first consult with residents about the changes.
Thiesenhausen said she is particularly concerned about the site’s marsh area, which was specifically excluded from the original plans and has since been filled in.
"You’re being asked to sign on (for) something that’s already been done. That’s not how I see democracy working," she told the committee.
"There was inadequate consultation on this change. Residents have not had a chance until now."
In July 2011, the city approved plans to replace the current Station No. 11 on Berry Street with a new facility on a two-acre site inside the cloverleaf next to the St. James Hotel.
St. James resident Fred Morris asked if the cloverleaf at Portage and Century was the best location for the new station, which will also serve portions of River Heights.
Morris also questioned if building on previously excavated land was a good idea.
"This is a 50- to 100-year decision," he said. "That’s why it should be the right decision."
At the beginning of the hearing, a lawyer for the Viscount Gort Hotel argued the station’s construction was "unlawful" and it is being built without provincial approval.
Richard Good said Viscount owner Phillip Kives was not consulted, and the hotel could suffer a loss of revenue and reputation as a result of the decision.
The city proceeded with undue haste, Good said, calling for construction to be stopped until there was further consultation.
Coun. Scott Fielding (St. James-Brooklands) noted the WFPS held a public consultation about the station at the Viscount Gort in July 2011.
He also noted a letter sent by the hotel to the community about the hearing misled residents into believing the station was expanding in size and taking up more greenspace inside the cloverleaf when the opposite was true.
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