Provincial authority puts kibosh on city-approved 55-plus complex in Charleswood
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/11/2022 (206 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A 55-plus apartment development that city council approved won’t get built, after the Manitoba Municipal Board concluded it should be rejected.
Last February, council approved a proposal to construct 199 dwelling units at 4025 Roblin Blvd., despite opposition from many residents.
But the Manitoba Municipal Board held its own hearing on the topic after that decision and sent a formal recommendation that the city reject the proposal in September.
“The board considers the size and scale of the proposed development and proposed rezoning to be incompatible with the character, context and built form of the surrounding dwellings and established neighbourhood,” the document states.
A city staff report concludes the site aligns with city plans and would provide strategic infill that helps people age in place, with nearby active transportation, transit and potential future rapid-transit options.
“The rezoning, subject to the recommended conditions, is compatible with the surrounding area, as it is adjacent to two arterial roadways,” the report states, referring to William Clement Parkway and Roblin Boulevard.
The L-shaped building was originally pitched to have one section reach 25.6 metres (84 feet) tall and another rise to 31.7 metres (104 feet) tall, before city council lowered the maximum height to 24 metres (79 feet).
However, opponents soon challenged the council decision at the Manitoba Municipal Board, where many residents insisted the building would clash with the neighbourhood and lead to a dangerous level of traffic congestion.
“It was an outcry of the whole area,” said Brent Horrill, president of the condominium corporation for Assiniboine Crossing, a 55-plus bungalow development.
Horrill said a petition against the site attracted 2,000 signatures, with many opposing the height of the structure.
“Frankly, there’s nothing in Charleswood that’s anything near that kind of size of development. It’s just totally out of character, out of place,” he said. “There was going to be 199 units in (this)… with that volume of traffic coming in, the roadways, the rest of it… just strictly from a safety point of view, it’s an accident waiting to happen.”
Horrill said others also feared the development would eat up valuable green space and sites suited to planting more trees.
Kevin Klein, who served as the area’s councillor before launching an unsuccessful mayoral bid, supported the project at the Assiniboia community committee but opposed it at a council meeting due to resident concerns.
“There’s no apartments in that area of that size…. You have to consider where you’re putting buildings. You can’t just plop a square peg into a round hole,” said Klein.
In a recent online post, Klein said he was “delighted” to inform residents of the provincial recommendation.
The provincial conclusion that the city should reject the proposal came as a surprise to one of the project’s planners.
“The planners at the City of Winnipeg, we thought, did a really good job explaining how the various proposals fit the various policies of Our Winnipeg and Complete Communities (two key city planning documents),” said Donovan Toews, a planning consultant with Landmark Planning and Design Inc.
Toews said he believes the proposal would help achieve multiple city goals.
“From my perspective, we need infill. It’s best when that infill is located on major roadways. This proposal is located on the corner of an expressway and an arterial roadway and it was reasonable,” he said.
Toews said efforts were made to maximize the building’s distance from adjacent homes, preserve trees and protect a former Independent Order of Odd Fellows Home located on the same property. The city is now studying a possible heritage designation of the Odd Fellows structure built in 1922, which would protect its key “character-defining elements” and prevent its demolition.
An official with the Manitoba Municipal Board repeatedly portrayed the city as “the final decision-maker” on the matter.
“(The board made) a report recommendation, it’s not a decision,” said Erin Wills, the board’s secretary and chief administrative officer.
However, the Municipal Board’s report on the matter notes “council must not pass a proposed zoning bylaw that has been referred to the Municipal Board unless the proposed bylaw conforms to the recommendations that the board has made in its report to council in respect of the bylaw.”
A city official confirmed the city doesn’t believe it has a choice in the matter.
“If the Municipal Board ruling says that the city must not adopt the proposed bylaw… the city does not have a choice other than to follow the direction provided by the Municipal Board ruling. The statement that the city is the ‘ultimate decision-maker’ still holds true in that it is the city that ultimately makes the decision to defeat the bylaw, regardless of the fact that the city has no other option but to do so,” said spokesman Kalen Qually.
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.
Updated on Friday, November 4, 2022 4:52 PM CDT: Adds sidebar.