Some residents of Fort Richmond don’t want what happened to them to happen in other neighbourhoods.
Linda Lambert, an occupational therapist and mother of two, has lived on Blackwood Bay since 2000. Her home, and her neighbours’ homes, back onto the CN railway in Fort Richmond.
Beyond the tracks, a new 80-foot (seven-storey) tall, 78-unit apartment building, called The Spot on Pembina, is being built. It’s something she and her neighbours aren’t thrilled about.
Lambert said she and her neighbours know that there isn’t anything they can do to stop construction at this point, but she feels the city and the developer have done the bare minimum to inform her community.
"We felt like this happened very underhandedly, nobody in the neighbourhood had a clue what was going on," Lambert said. "So we were feeling very frustrated and angry about it."
“We felt like this happened very underhandedly, nobody in the neighbourhood had a clue what was going on,” -- Linda Lambert, Fort Richmond Resident
The Spot on Pembina was designed by the BLDG architecture office inc., and is being constructed by Pre-Con Builders. The modern, black-and-red building will feature one- and two-bedroom apartments with French balconies.
Lambert says that by the time she and her neighbours found out about the building, construction had started and they knew there wasn’t much they could do to stop it.
Plans went to the Riel community committee on Dec 3, 2012 for subdivision and re-zoning approval, as well as for approval of a variance of land use. The land was designated a commercial community district, but it was rezoned to residential multi-family district.
"But we thought ‘Well, there is nothing we can do, it’s a done deal and it’s going up,’ so is there something good we can make of this?" said Lambert, who added that Robin Lee of Pre-Con Builders was very helpful when contacted. (Lee could not be reached by The Sou’wester for comment in time for publication.)
"So we hope to educate the communities about our experience and about the process of what happens so that maybe in educating the community, other people will watch and be able to prevent something like this from happening, or at least understand the process."
“So when somebody comes forward with an application like this, that kind of falls within the realm of what we’re generally looking for, so it’s ‘How do we accommodate that?’” --Robert Kostiuk, city planner for the Riel district
Robert Kostiuk, city planner for Riel district, said everything was conducted according to city’s bylaws, which include posting variance signs around the property and advertising in two daily newspapers 14 days in advance of the public hearing, in order to notify the public about the project.
Lambert is upset about the height of the building and how close it is to her home.
She said that, by early-March, she could see the first floor of construction just while sitting at her kitchen table. The developer told her the building is not right behind her home but offset by the railroad.
When asked why there wasn’t an open house, Lambert was told they didn’t feel the need for one.
"It would have been a good thing for such a large development," Lambert said.
"They felt that because it wasn’t right attached to somebody’s property line that there was no need for it — because it is set back far enough that it isn’t an issue."
Kostiuk said while it is recommended developers hold open houses to inform residents of such projects, it is not mandatory that they do so.
Kostiuk said the building will be more than 150 feet away from any property lines and these types of developments along Pembina Highway are exactly what the City of Winnipeg is looking for.
"Generally the idea is to direct higher-intensity developments along here where we have better transit," Kostiuk said.
"So when somebody comes forward with an application like this, that kind of falls within the realm of what we’re generally looking for, so it’s ‘How do we accommodate that?’"
To let the rest of the street know about the project, Lambert and her neighbours have distributed flyers.
Coun. Justin Swandel (St. Norbert) said procedures were followed according to city bylaws but would not comment further.