More affordable housing for seniors, public parks on the banks of the Red River and protecting historic First Nations burial grounds.
Those were just some of the ideas floated for a secondary plan last week that will ultimately guide development of Middlechurch North, a 280-hectare chunk of land along the Red River in West St. Paul.
"It was a very good conversation," said Walter Lakhno, a River’s Edge resident who lives in the planning area and supports development.
Lakhno was one of only about a dozen people who showed up to the public workshop June 5 at the Sunova Centre to define land uses, lot sizes, infrastructure needs and wastewater plans for the area.
Much of the land in question falls on the east side of Highway 9 and is currently zoned for agricultural use. The RM expects to convert the land to residential and mixed use to support up to 500 new homes.
Lakhno, who moved from North Kildonan six years ago, said West St. Paul is a good place to live just outside of Winnipeg. He wants the municipality to keep its large lot sizes and maintain its rural feel.
"That’s why I moved out of the city," he said.
"You can knock on your neighbour’s windows in the city. Some like it, some don’t."
If new homes are built, Lakhno wants to see a buffer built along Highway 9, similar to what’s found along the Chief Peguis Trail, to curb noise from highway traffic.
"The highway is getting more and more busy," he said.
Coun. Ron Michalishyn said the area needs more condos and rental apartments for seniors looking to downsize from their homes.
"They don’t have any smaller facilities to move into," he said.
"They want something where they can still enjoy the community and be a part of it."
The area will see some commercial development as well, but it will likely be contained to the west of Highway 9 on a sliver of land between Jackman and Northumberland roads. Mayor Bruce Henley believes there are opportunities to bring in gas and groceries to the area there.
"Right now in West St. Paul, people can’t buy a gallon of gas or a litre of milk. The options are very limited," said Henley.
"These are basic needs people expect when they come to a neighbourhood. We have a lot of the bricks and mortar, but there are some amenities we are lacking."
Henley also suggested preserving a burial grounds used by First Nations hundreds of years ago in the northern part of the area along the River. The area could be preserved as a heritage park, and could even become the focal point of new public park, he said.
Other attendees agreed the RM should maintain public access to the river through park space and public walkways.
One suggested the RM look for space to develop a regional medical centre similar to one located in East St. Paul, while another said the municipality needs to consider the image it gives to drivers passing through its entry points along Highway 9.
MMM has been hired to draft the plan. An open house is planned for fall, and is expected to land on council’s agenda shortly after.
Despite the low turnout, Henley said residents can still get their two cents in by calling their local councillors or the RM office.
For more, visit www.weststpaul.com or call 204-338-0306.