Residents split on value of city’s Crescentwood conservation designation


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City council has unanimously decided to make the Crescentwood-Enderton Park area the second heritage conservation district in Winnipeg amid concerns that could impose unclear rules on residents.

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City council has unanimously decided to make the Crescentwood-Enderton Park area the second heritage conservation district in Winnipeg amid concerns that could impose unclear rules on residents.

Many community members lobbied council to add the designation over the last few years, arguing it is essential to preserving the unique “garden-like setting” and historic homes in the area created more than a century ago.

Council gave final approval to the designation on Thursday. The decision means building owners throughout the district will require a special heritage permit to demolish or alter any character-defining element of their properties or add certain new structures.

The Crescentwood-Enderton Park area is the second heritage conservation district in Winnipeg. (City of Winnipeg)

The rules sparked opposition from some residents during Thursday’s council meeting.

“It is my democratic right within the law to deal as I see fit with my own real estate, just as all of you do, not to be restricted and burdened and governed by the wants of a select few championing the HCD designation,” said Glen Harvey, who bought his home in the area in 1987.

Harvey, a real estate agent, expects homes in the neighbourhood to decline in value due to the change.

“If awarded this designation, it will have a huge negative effect on property values,” he said, adding he would not have purchased a home in the area if he had known the changes were possible.

Kevin Toyne, a lawyer who represents other homeowners who oppose the heritage district, said the designation imposes unclear rules on even some minor home alterations.

“Citizens… should be able to understand their obligations under the bylaws that you pass, particularly when there’s significant consequences if they breach or violate a section of one of those bylaws,” Toyne told council members.

The heritage protection rules generally permit homeowners to do landscaping, maintain trees or add plants on their properties without a permit, he said. However, the plan also notes the exemption is intended for changes that are generally confined to a small area, out of public view, constitute routine maintenance, are easily reversible and would not have a negative impact on the heritage value and character-defining elements of the HCD, caveats he argued open the door to confusion.

“If someone who lives in the proposed district wants to plant flowers in their front yard, do they require a heritage permit or not?” he asked. “The document doesn’t make it clear whether they do or whether they do not.”

He noted fines of between $1,000 and $1 million can apply for violating the rules, though he later clarified he doesn’t expect the largest fines would apply to small landscape changes.

Adding a flower bed is not listed as requiring a heritage permit, city spokesman Kalen Qually said in an emailed statement. “

“It is always the city’s goal to work with a property owner on identifying work that requires a permit,” he said.

Some area residents who have advocated for the designation for years spoke at Thursday’s meeting.

“We care deeply about our neighbourhood, its beauty and its historical significance,” said John Youngman. “As a homeowner, I am 100 per cent in support of the Crescentwood HCD and have no problem abiding by the rules in place on homeowners like me. They are reasonable and they are measured. There are plenty of ways I can still improve my home under the plan, just not in ways that ruin the neighbourhood.”

Youngman said he expects the designation to trigger property value increases.

Coun. John Orlikow, whose ward includes the district, agreed the change will benefit home values.

“People move to that area because they like the heritage. They love these elements,” said Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry).

When asked about opponents’ concerns, Orlikow said the city’s legal team is confident with its terms. He also doesn’t believe the rules would be harshly applied.

“This is not a draconian thing. If (residents are) going to do a hedge here or flowers there, it’s, of course, not going to be a million-dollar fine on that. I felt it was clear enough but, if (people) have questions, by all means, the department will be here (to answer them),” he said.

Coun. Jason Schreyer, chairman of the historical buildings and resources committee, also believes the plan is fair.

The concerns raised during Thursday’s meeting don’t appear to have become a reality in Armstrong’s Point, Winnipeg’s first heritage district, Schreyer (Elmwood-East Kildonan) said.

The council decision is final and cannot be appealed at city hall.

It would be possible for opponents to take legal action to try to reverse the designation but an upcoming meeting will determine their next steps, Toyne said.

“The purpose of my appearance (at council) was to draw some legal issues to council’s attention that could result in the HCD designation being overturned if there is litigation. The hope was that council would turn their mind to those issues in their deliberations and it seems that that has not happened,” he said, declining to say how many area homeowners he represents.

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

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.

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