Proposals for high-rise residential development along St. James Street in the Polo Park area have been put on hold for a second time, to give the developers and land owners more time to resolve differences with the Winnipeg Airports Authority.
But the position of the airports authority, which owns and operates Richardson International Airport, appears to indicate there’s no room to compromise.
Councillors on the executive policy committee Tuesday voted unanimously to recommend to council to take no action on requests for public hearings for 30 days.
The EPC recommendation came despite a request from one of the developers, who wants council to proceed with a public hearing immediately.
Justin Zarnowski, vice-president of legal affairs for Shindico Realty Inc., which is partnering with Cadillac Fairview for development along the east side of St. James Street, said the development team wants to make "a really strong economic and property tax development case," at a public hearing.
Cadillac Fairview, which owns the Polo Park shopping centre, is seeking permission to develop an 80-acre parcel of land surrounding the mall (from Portage to St. Matthews avenues, and St. James and Empress streets) with a series of highrise residential towers.
There is a second, similar proposal for the west side of St. James that involves multiple partners who own 17 separate properties on 34 acres of land (most of them on the west side of St. James between Portage and just north of Ellice Avenue).
Both proposals need an amendment to the Airport Vicinity Protection Secondary Plan, which was established in 1997 to prohibit residential development in a zone immediately adjacent to the airport.
The airports authority is opposed to new residential development within the protected zone because it’s concerned residents’ complaints about airport-related noise will lead to reduction in the airport’s 24-hour operations status.
The developers want council to give first reading to a bylaw authorizing the changes to the secondary plan, which would trigger a public hearing.
While the proposals became public only at the end of August, Zarnowski told EPC that talks between developers, city hall, ward Coun. Scott Gillingham and the airports authority have been going on for 18 months.
The proposals were supported by the property and development committee but when the issue first came to EPC in mid-September, it was set aside for 30 days.
Zarnowski said when the developers met with the WAA last month, it appeared there was room for compromise but he added that he learned Monday night that the WAA is opposing the proposals.
However, Coun. Sherri Rollins, who argued for a second 30-day delay, said she remains convinced there is room for compromise and asked that more time be given to see if that can happen.
But the WAA’s position doesn’t appear to have changed at all since the proposals became public.
Tyler MacAfee, spokesman for the airports authority, said that while the WAA supports residential development in the St. James area, it remains opposed to any ad hoc attempts by developers to poke holes in the protected zone.
MacAfee said the WAA is willing to consider a review of the entire protected zone to determine what kind of development might occur in future, but he added the two proposals at city hall now are too vague and lack specifics for consideration on their own.
Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.