‘Hail Mary pass’: Osborne Village store may be rebuilt
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An Osborne Village convenience store may be rebuilt following a fatal blaze after all, due to a new, last-ditch attempt to get rid of a key financial obstacle.
Coun. Sherri Rollins’ second attempt to waive a $20,242.67 city bill to rezone the site and allow for the reconstruction was unanimously supported by council’s executive policy committee, though it still awaits a final council vote.
“There’s a lot of public discussion that this was the wrong decision… I’m calling it a ‘Hail Mary’ pass,” Rollins said Wednesday.
The Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry councillor’s first motion to waive the fees was recently defeated by council’s property and development committee.
Rollins said she subsequently received an onslaught of community support for store owner Hae-Kyung (Heather) Shin and E-Mart Groceries.
Shin has said she can’t afford the rezoning fee as she attempts to reopen E-Mart after a tragic and sudden closure. The family-owned store at 157 Scott St. suffered extensive damage in an alleged arson that claimed the life of Shin’s sister-in-law, 60-year-old Jung Ja Shin, in August 2021.
Douglas Wayne Last was later charged with manslaughter and arson.
Rollins said Shin’s story touched many Winnipeggers.
“She’s an amazing woman, who’s been rebuilding (her) family after arson, fire and tragic death, who’s been protecting not only the interests of her family but the collective interests of the neighbourhood,” the councillor said.
The store owner called the EPC decision “wonderful,” noting it gives her hope council will follow suit. “I almost kind of gave up (after the last vote)… I am so happy that I have another chance.”
Shin was also touched by the “overwhelming” public support to waive the fees.
“I have a lot of support and I am so glad (my customers) have an opportunity to have the store back,” she said.
Rollins’ motion notes the fees were imposed because non-conforming zoning rights were lost when the building burned down, despite the fact the mixed-use residence and business was in place for decades.
Prior to EPC’s decision, Coun. Matt Allard said the price for the rezoning application itself is too high.
“This example today, I believe, is a symptom of us having increased zoning fees to the point where we’re probably missing out on a whole lot of net new taxes from (development),” said Allard.
Rollins agreed the cost was “exorbitant” for such a small project.
On Sept. 8, a divided vote initially defeated the waiver at a property and development committee meeting, since a tie amounts to a loss. Couns. Janice Lukes and Kevin Klein opposed the fee waiver, while Couns. Vivian Santos and Cindy Gilroy supported it.
On Wednesday, Lukes said she stands by her vote and remains concerned waiving the fee will open the floodgates to future waiver requests, since so many businesses faced severe losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s a lot of sad situations out there. Where does it end? Businesses have been devastated and literally wiped out,” said Lukes.
The Waverley West councillor said the municipal government may not be able to afford to set such a precedent, given the city’s own pandemic losses.
Council is expected to cast the final vote on the matter Sept. 22.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.